She first heard it as a child, home sick from school, laying in bed and listening to the radio all day. Desmond Decker’s “The Israelites” had catapulted reggae on to the American airwaves, reaching #9 on Billboard’s Top 10 in 1969. It played repeatedly on AM radio in San Francisco that day. The second time, she was a teen at the wrong movie theatre, unable to understand a word of the dialogue but riveted to her seat by the amazing, transformative soundtrack of the 1972 classic “The Harder They Come”.

Since childhood, camera in hand, Lee Abel has documented the world around her. In 1979, as part of her degree in Visual Anthropology from UC Davis, she flew to Jamaica to begin what would become a long-term photography project entitled “Portraits of Rural Jamaica.” As her love of photography, reggae, and Jamaica merged, she began to photograph live music regularly, including Sunsplash and Sumfest in Jamaica, and Reggae on the River and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Northern California, along with a myriad of other festivals and clubs through the years.

Lee’s photos have been used on more than 90 reggae albums, and for countless magazine covers and articles, websites, artist promotional materials, and books, including 2 editions of Lonely Planet Jamaica and The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae. Many of her documentary and music photographs are part of the permanent exhibit on the walls of the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) in San Francisco. Lee continues to be the go-to source for onstage and off-stage photographs of both classic and contemporary reggae artists, as well as her documentary style images of Jamaica. For more info or to contact Lee, go to


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