This online gallery is for the followers of my independent study that can't make it to the live gallery and/or would like to listen to the interviews that go along with the project. Enjoy.

artist statement

“Sometimes I sit staring out my window and look out to each glowing light and can’t help but think of the individuals that occupy these spaces each having their own human experience. I wonder their stories. What makes them happy. What makes them sad. How everything brought them to this very moment standing there in a bleak fluorescent kitchen heating up yesterday's leftovers. We each look out completely unaware of each other’s existence but we share a bond that neither of us will ever understand.”

                                                                        by John Dunfee via Instagram


Portrait Project

My name is Colby Yee. I am a senior at Lexington High School. For the past year I have been undergoing an independent study into portrait photography under the guidance of my teacher Damian Barneschi.

Inspired by Brandon Stanton, founder of “Humans of New York,” and John Dunfee (quoted above), I began my own “Portrait Project”. Like Brandon Stanton, I too wanted to photograph strangers and listen to the stories they had to tell. For this project, one of my challenges was to make connections. Like many people, I went through life with tunnel vision; avoiding eye contact, unfamiliar faces, and uncomfortable conversations. Through this work I hope to show that there is so much that can be learned by reaching out to those you don't know.

I set out to take a portrait of a different person each day, for the entire duration of 2014. During that time, I feel as though my portraiture has improved alongside my heightened curiosity and willingness to engage with others. I ended up learning more than just people’s stories; as the year went on I learned more about composition and technique, and emphasized these more and more in my work. With practice and guidance I was able to hone my skills and work with both film and digital photography.  

These 15 images are what I believe best represent my work. They convey the stories, faces, and situations that spoke to me most. These images had a large affect on me because the subject’s words shaped my views gave me unique perspectives that I might not otherwise had access to had I not met them. My work encourages the viewer to reach out to those around them and to listen and learn through other people’s experiences.


February 1, 2014

“What kind of music do you like to play?”

“My music.”

Hear the conversation: 

March 28, 2014

“What is the best decision that you’ve ever made?”

“When I asked for her phone number.”

Hear the conversation: 

April 28, 2014

“What is the biggest problem in the world right now?”

“I would have to go with climate change.”

“Do you want to elaborate on that?”

“I’ve felt that way a long time, since I was aware of it, since I was aware of how it affected a lot of other problems in the world. I feel like it’s not just an environmental problem; it’s also an economic problem, it’s also a social problem. People being displaced from being able to live places where people have lived for a long time, people not being able to do the work that has traditionally been the lifeblood of certain areas, like fishing, mining, agriculture, a lot of industries that humanity has kind of built our systems around, are in jeopardy of changing quite dramatically over the next hundred years, fifty even. I think a lot of that is due to climate change.  A lot of people think overpopulation might be a big problem, but, again, it’s the way in which people inhabit the environment, not so much simply how many people inhabit the environment. Without having actually any real official knowledge, those are just my feelings on it.”

Hear the conversation:

June 4, 2014

“What do you enjoy most about your daughter?”

“She’s pretty playful.”

“What does she enjoying do most?”

“Swings. That’s why we come here every evening.”

Hear the conversation:

June 8, 2014




“Can I take a selfie with that thing?”


July 11, 2014

“I’ve had great chances and a lot of them I’ve blown because of past behaviors.”


Hear the conversation:

July 26, 2014

“What is the most surprising thing in life?”

“Sometimes just how beautiful it is.”

“When was the last surprising time you saw that life was actually really beautiful?”

“I saw this little baby earlier this week and she was absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t a surprise it was just a moment of just feeling this beautiful feeling for this child.”

Hear the conversation:

August 3, 2014

“What’s the most surprising thing in life?”


“Why tomorrow?”

“Because you don’t know what’s coming your way tomorrow. The world is wide open. You think you’re planning your day tomorrow but not necessarily. I think that’s the biggest surprise we have in our life, tomorrow.

Hear the conversation:

August 6, 2014

“What’s the most surprising thing in life?”

“Life itself. It’s just an everyday adventure. For me, anyway.”

“What was the last surprise that happened to you?”
“Year and a half ago. I found my son down in the cellar, hung. That was a big surprise. I never thought it’d ever happen.”


Hear the conversation:

August 31, 2014

Pictured is an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. His name is Dan. His trail name is Grizzly. The name was given by other hikers that thought he looked like Grizzly Adams from the TV show. Starting in Georgia, Dan had been on the trail for four months when I took his portrait. One of the big things I took away from my conversation with Dan, was his stories of kindness that he encountered on the trail. He talked about people that would put out cold drinks and fruit for trail hikers and how much these things meant to him because these were things that hikers couldn’t carry with them. A quote from Dan about thru hikers:

“We are basically homeless people hiking from 5-6 months out of the year.”


September 8, 2014

I got turned down by five people on this day. This was the sixth man who said yes. He was happy with the new job he just started.


September 16, 2014

“What is the best decision that you’ve ever made?”

“To go to medical school.”

“Where did you go to medical school?”

“I went to the University of Padua in Padua, Italy.”

“Did you used to live in Italy?”

“Actually I was stationed in Italy before I went to medical school and then when I got out of  the Navy I went back to Italy and I lived there for five years.”

“What would you say the biggest difference between the Italy and the US is?”

“The people are warmer, friendlier, and more honest in their dealings on an everyday level.”


Hear the conversation:

September 21, 2014

I don’t have any recorded conversations with this woman but I took a lot away from our talk.

One thing I took away from our conversation was our discussion on the mediums that people use to reach out to others to make connections with them and to make themselves approachable. She used my camera as an example because it allowed me to approach people because I have a purpose. My purpose is my project and the camera allows me to have a conversation with them. In a different way, the goats were her bridge to conversation. Goats are very approachable creatures and they are very friendly. The goats made it easy for other people to approach her.


September 26, 2014


I discussed many things with this man. He travels the United States in an Airstream trailer.


December 10, 2014


“What is your definition of success?”

“A person who is wholesome and can relate well to other people and who works hard to make the world a better place; who thinks outside the box. That is success.”


Hear the conversation: