Lee was born in London in 1945; his parents were both operatives in MI5. Due to a combination of dyslexia and a strong sense of independence, Lee did not follow the established family route through Eton and Cambridge, instead attending the experimental Down House School in Sussex, leaving at 16. Denied a visa to the US on age grounds, Lee emigrated to Australia under the assisted passage Ten Pound Poms scheme in 1962. After traveling around the outback for a year, he settled in Sydney, where the Dutch-born photographer Jon van Gaalen provided him with board and lodging in return for his assistance with developing negatives. This association helped to spark Lee's own interest in photography, and he began working as a freelance photojournalist, covering performances by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with his work appearing regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald. At the age of 18 he had a shot of his then girlfriend, the Australian fashion model Bronwyn Steven-Jones, published in Australian Vogue. Fashion art photographer In 1965, Lee was drafted into the Australian Army to fight in the Vietnam War, but through his parents' interventions (on grounds of national security), he was able to return to the UK. He spent the next two years at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London and continued to build his portfolio, photographing bands including the Kinks and the Who, and securing jobs for fashion clients keen to be seen in the colour supplements then new in British newspapers. As his reputation grew, Lee began working on shoots for clients in the fashion industry, taking on bigger work, and by 1968, he was working full-time as a fashion photographer for some of the biggest fashion designers of the time including Ossie Clark, Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace, with his spreads featuring regularly in editorials in the national press and fashion magazines including Fashion, Elle and The Sunday Times. A two-year move to Paris in 1970, working for Vingt Ans and Photo magazines, and continuing to correspond for the British publications, let Lee expand his contacts and reputation in the fashion industry.