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Lee Lin Chin
, 2004

by George Fetting

type C photograph (sheet: 126.0 x 101.2 cm, image: 120.0 x 95.0 cm)

Lee-Lin Chin, broadcaster, was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta and raised and schooled in Singapore, where in 1968 she began working in television and radio. After arriving in Australia in 1980 she worked as a translator of Chinese movies (she commands ‘conversational’ Cantonese, Mandarin and Fukien). Having worked with ABC radio in Darwin and Newcastle, she became a newsreader with the multicultural and multilingual public broadcast channel, SBS, in 1992. She currently presents the weekend edition of SBS World News. Although she reads the news with some severity, and is reticent about her history and private life, as host of the network’s cult-hit Fashionista program she built a reputation as a style authority, delighting her many admirers with her self-confessed ‘mania’ for dressing up. A hot target for portraitists, in 2008 she was involved in the exhibition of historical fashion photographs, Strike a Pose … With Lee Lin Chin at the National Archives of Australia, Canberra, and there are several blogs devoted to her appearance including ‘Chinny Style’. Chin’s causes include The Social Studio, an enterprise dedicated to creating employment and educational pathways for young people who have been refugees.

George Fetting (b. 1964) is a Sydney-based freelance photographer. Although he describes portraiture as his first love and in 2007 won the Olive Cotton Award for portraiture, his work also encompasses photojournalism, travel photography and advertising. Fetting approached Lee-Lin Chin with the idea of photographing her in ‘geisha’ style, her Chinese- Malay heritage notwithstanding. The portrait session took place at the SBS offices in Sydney. After taking a series of other photographs, Fetting took this one in a patch of natural light in a corner near the cafeteria, the station’s employees passing by without raising an eyebrow at the ‘fashionista’s’ bandeau of Indian silk. Chin said that she liked the photograph ‘because it’s so unashamedly attention-grabbing – which isn’t me at all’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist and Lee Lin Chin, 2010
Accession number: 2010.16