004. Overexposed is Overexposed

— Lex Lee

Who here has felt personally victimized by perfect lighting and photoshop? *raises hand* Yup, I get that same feeling when I page through a design magazine. I know…probably not where you thought I was going. But can I just say that you can overexpose a pile of phonebooks and it would make it look like springtime in Ojai. LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING.

Phonebooks, my Gen Z darlings, were books that had your name, phone number, and address in case you wanted someone to get in contact with you or murder you or get in contact with you to murder you. 

Back to the main topic: LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING. BUT LIGHTING IS ALSO A LIE. It has taken me years to find a photographer who understood the sexiness and moodiness of an empty room. The subject is the lack of subject. The time of day is inconsequential (bring on the shadows!). Imperfections are welcome. 

We all know I met Monika online. I love her portrait photography. The coloration, the poses. I took her at face value. At the face value SHE wanted to project. It wasn’t until she posted a photo of her own home…get this…AS AN ADVERTISEMENT THAT SHE WAS SELLING HOME DECOR AT A FLEA MARKET. Like hey, here’s some sh*t I don’t want anymore under a shot of her shelving in the background with various ceramics for sale. 


I want all of my projects to feel real.

Not a Pinterest fantasy.

It was a cozy picture. I wanted that picture to give me a hug and scratch my back until I fell asleep. I wanted to grow old with that picture. I wanted to learn how to cook for that picture. Basically, I was in love. It felt real. 

I want all of my projects to feel real. Not a Pinterest fantasy. Moni shot this Los Angeles project for me (styled by my boo Erin Thomas) as our interior design guinea pig. I believe it was a mid-week afternoon. No lighting equipment. The results are shown here, and you can’t NOT feel the California ease when you look at them. This is a house I want my grandkids to run around in while my husband makes pancakes and I am somewhere puttering around looking for my paints. Yes that says “PAINTS”. Not “pants”.    

I want you to see my projects in photographs and if you were ever-so-lucky to walk into them in real life, you’d smile and say…”this is exactly how I thought it would be.” Because the real thing is always better than the retouching. 

Powering Off,


All photos by Monika Ottehenning.


tyvm emily :)

Lex Lee1 Comment