The great-grandson of a Great Plains sodbuster, Murray Lee was raised on a family farm in rural Iowa. With a photojournalism degree from the Greenlee School at Iowa State University and a six-year stint as an award winning chief photographer at a daily newspaper, the enterprising young photographer did what few other Midwesterners dare to do – move South of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Murray began a 13-year career as Tennessee state photographer in 1984. This artistic experience spanned between and beyond Tennessee Homecoming ’86 and the Tennessee Bicentennial of 1996, both focused on promoting arts, history and tourism across the state. Murray’s work appeared in national publications such as Forbes, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Newsweek, Southern Living and Fortune. His images helped promote tourism and agriculture through initiatives like “Pick Tennessee Products” posters; the traveling Tennessee Treasures Bicentennial train where Murray’s photographs were displayed at a colossal scale across the exteriors of entire train cars; the Tennessee Vacation Guide where Murray’s carefully-crafted images were featured on annual covers, numerous section fronts and scores of individual illustrations; Tennessee Scenic posters; and scores of others. One of Murray’s more famous photographs was the state signature image for 1996. The Tennessee state Capitol’s cupola against a backdrop of fireworks was featured on the ’96 Vacation Guide and numerous other publications during the celebratory Bicentennial year.
After 13 years of scouring Tennessee for eye-catching imagery, he was lured to live in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Since 1997, as freelance photographer, Murray has shot a variety of editorial and commercial images on location. His images continue to appear in state promotional publications including Tennessee Vacation Guide, Tennessee Economic Development Guide, Tennessee Heritage Trail, Tennessee’s African-American Guide to Cultural and Historic Sites and North Carolina Vacation Guide. Murray’s golf images, portraying unique sense of place, were featured as covers of the North Carolina Golf Guide. Commercial work has included portraits of state and national leaders like Vice President Al Gore, Howard Baker, John Sigenthaler, Governors Ned McWherter and Phil Bredesen.
Murray’s original photography for the Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook, promoting the North Carolina and Tennessee Overhill region’s cultural heritage and significance, recently received a Presidential Preserve America award. His current ongoing personal work includes The Secret Sex Lives of Flowers, intimate images of flowers shot on location in natural light, many in his own garden.
His combined skill and expertise of interviewing people, along with crafting and combining light and environment, produces unique portraits of people and places. Murray has recently moved to Asheville and continues his freelance photography creating portrait, architectural and food images for the editorial and commercial markets.