Photographer Stella Asia Consonni captures intimate moments with amorous lovers for her latest series
While going through a break-up, Stella Asia Consonni looked to her camera as a tool to cope. But instead of turning away from love, she leant into it by spending her time with amorous couples. Now collated in her Love Me photo series, Consonni captured couples in intimate poses, kissing and loving each other, and the results are beautiful.
But not everyone was feeling the love. Last year, When Consonni pre-released a photo of a couple named Jordan and Luca, she received homophobic backlash, resulting in Instagram taking the photo down. Not one to be deterred, Consonni fought back and expanded the series with an even more diverse range of couples. And this larger series is being exhibited at Protein studios tonight, 25 April, from 6-10pm, with a kissing booth included. As the show prepares to open, we catch up with the photographer.
The photo series was inspired by a break up, can you tell us why you wanted to take photographs of happy couples?
Stella Asia Consonni: I have always been quite brutal in my problem-solving techniques. In the beginning, I definitely couldn’t stand the sight of people in love but the idea of confronting my issue headfirst seemed the best option at the time. I felt like I needed to rip off the plaster and get on with it. It was definitely more painful than expected, but it worked.
How did you feel when the photograph of Jordan and Luca received so much backlash?
Stella Asia Consonni: I felt just terrible. I had no idea whatsoever it would cause such a stir. To me, it was simply a photograph of two beautiful people in love. I also felt guilty for putting Jordan and Luca through so much hate – we all got a shower of insults and creepy death threats. Ultimately though, I have to thank those horrible people. It’s because of them that I felt like I had to kick back, expanding the project, and making it into an exhibition.
“Most of them said that they hadn’t kissed so passionately in a very long time and thanked me for giving them the opportunity to rediscover this” – Stella Asia Consonni
How do you feel looking at the photographs now?
Stella Asia Consonni: I feel good! It’s amazing to see the project finally come to life. I spent quite a few days hand printing in the colour darkroom, preparing prints that will be for sale during the exhibition. Being in the dark and in silence with my negatives surely added a whole new level to the experience. I was in a sort of meditative state, and felt like I bonded with my images even more.
Did they help the healing process?
Stella Asia Consonni: For sure. The couples, mostly strangers to me, welcomed me into their homes and told me about their relationship; how they met, why they fought, and those little things they loved about their partner. That was a kind of therapy to me. It showed me that no matter how deep my pain was, to my surprise, the world was still carrying on out there.
How did you go about getting couples to feel comfortable with you?
Stella Asia Consonni: It was a natural progression. We started with a chat over a cup of tea and we always ended up with them kissing a few inches away from my lens. My aim was to make them forget that I was there. Most of them said that they hadn’t kissed so passionately in a very long time and thanked me for giving them the opportunity to rediscover this, which I found lovely.
What can you tell us about the film? How does it relate to the photographs?
Stella Asia Consonni: I needed the photographs to move and talk to be able to fully express what I had in my head. The film is very much related to the stills – I feel like it’s a raw and honest representation of my vision of love. I am also very grateful to all the super talented people that worked with me on the film, making all my (crazy) dreams come true: my DOP Jack Reynolds, Millie Yoxen at Object & Animal, editor Ben Crook at Speade, grader Megan at The Mill and Jack at Factory. Also, Kedar Williams who did the voiceover and Sophie Leseberg Smith who wrote the script.
Do you have a favourite photograph in the series?
Stella Asia Consonni: I actually don’t have a favourite. I love them all the same – as if they were my children.
Will you continue expanding this project?
Stella Asia Consonni: I feel like the exhibition is a nice ending to this project. I have actually started working on a new series but the core themes of Love Me are a crucial part of my photography, so it’s probably fair to consider it as an evolution.
To attend the exhibition this evening, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be a kissing booth created by Lucy Cooper, where the public will be encouraged to kiss while having their picture taken and take home a Polaroid print. There will also be merch for sale, including limited edition handmade colour darkroom prints, t-shirts, and postcards. Follow Consonni here