We look back on the year’s most popular photo books and series striving to capture elusive moments of intimacy
Log onto any pick of social media and inevitably somewhere down your feed you will see pictures of relationships – be they platonic, romantic or familial relationships. Yet real intimacy is elusive. Displaying intimacy in public can often feel invasive, both to the subject and the viewer – it is deeply personal and requires a mutual connection and openness for it to feel genuine. These kinds of experiences and innermost feelings are often kept away from those outside of your most trusted circle. To allow the public eye to see you at your most vulnerable is an experience often too extreme for most people to bear.
From Francesca Allen’s delicate portraits of her sister, to Maria Clara Macrí’s raw and voyeuristic portraits of women within the settings of their own homes, this year, Dazed had the pleasure of displaying some super-talented photographers whose work offers a completely unfiltered look at intimacy. Below are some of our favourite intimate galleries from this year.
NOTHING COMPARES TO YOU, MARIE TOMANOVÁ
Nothing Compares To You features an honest and open look into many of the defining moments of Maria Tomanová’s life. We follow her journey from leaving her small rural home in the Czech Republic to attending an art college in Brno and then moving to New York.
Leaving home is an experience of firsts, the newfound freedom can be overwhelming, exciting and isolating at the same time. The coming-of-age exhibition feels as deep-seated and personal as flicking through her diary entries from that time. Many of the images across the multiple collections were taken on a low-quality digital camera, phone or Polaroid, however, telling Dazed earlier this year, she chooses not to alter the images too much, “to be as true to that moment as possible.”
IN HER ROOM, MARIA CLARA MACRÍ
Back in 2018, Maria Clara MacrÍ set out to travel the world to create a photography project exploring the concept of womanhood across different cultures. The photographer made the decision to capture women nude within their bedrooms, a place where many of us feel most at peace and have shared our most intimate experiences. For In Her Room, a project they told Dazed earlier this year was “guided by destiny,” the bedroom represented a safe space where women can discover their identity. Clara also set out to capture “a new kind of relationship, namely the relationship between women and their domestic space,” they told Dazed, in order to subvert the expected historical norms.
US, RONA BAR AND OFEK AVSHALOM
Us is a project that captures the side of a relationship normally hidden from the gaze of outsiders. Within the comfort of the couple’s own home, we see the state in which the heart is at its most pure – the affection flows freely and honesty is mutual. Tel Aviv-based photographers Rona Bar and Ofek Avshalom helmed the project, a duo whose creative relationship blossomed into a romantic one. Of the process, the photographers told Dazed in February that they “started photographing lovers who had gone into lockdown under the same roof, seizing the spontaneity of their connection.”
When considering the often-expected realities of early motherhood, the mind doesn’t drift much further than the disrupted sleep and changing of nappies. As a mother herself, Woodward told Dazed back in September of this year that society often “makes it almost impossible for a mother to be her own human outside of this role”. Her photography aims to “elevate and explore some of the more difficult and less discussed parts of motherhood,” something her images portray in a raw yet delicate and loving manner.
I’D LIKE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, FRANCESCA ALLEN
Relationships between siblings are often complex and varied. Some reach adulthood and decide to exist without each other, while others have an undying bond that never fades. With Francesca Allen’s project I’d like to get to know you, she undertook the task of exploring and rediscovering the relationship she holds with her sister by taking portraits of her. “Photographing somebody is an innately intimate experience. You put yourself in situations you wouldn’t usually be in and cross lines you might not dream of under other circumstances,” she explained to Dazed earlier this year. Given that Allen had never been “particularly close”, to her sister, the book served as a way to reimagine and document their relationship.
MARINA MÓNACO, KIDS
When Marina Mónaco moved over from Buenos Aires to Stuttgart, her project Kids began in its infancy. Wishing to move away from fashion photography – which the photographer told Dazed earlier this year she believes to be “quite superficial” – Mónaco began to capture the uniqueness of young love. “Is there anything better than young love?” she asked Dazed. “[The] feeling just happens one or two times when you are young, super deeply, then it’ll go away and maybe you are too old or too mature to enjoy it anymore.” The nostalgic images of Kids – taken in multiple cities around Europe – capture that innocence, a moment in time neither person will ever forget or fully move past.
Speak to anyone who grew up in London, and they will be able to recount endless stories of long summer days spent roaming the city’s bustling streets, sprawling parks and leafy suburbs. At every bus stop, within every off-licence and on every corner is a new character, a new person with a thousand stories to tell. Alfie White’s work captures these stories, “I think my work is just about the exploration of the human condition,” he told Dazed in November. From the intimate setting of a living room to the sweaty communion of a festival, each photo documents a story of which everyone can take away their own interpretation.
VOKSEVÆRK, MADS JOAKIM RIMER RASMUSSEN
The years of adolescence are delicate. Through the constant introduction of new experiences and continuous learning, undoubtedly embarrassing mistakes will be made, as will amazing memories, which will be ingrained within your mind long into adulthood. Efterskoler – “after school” in English – is an optional form of alternative residential schooling available to teenagers in Denmark, something Mads Joakim River Rasmussen believes is popular because “they give the youth a chance to grow into their next stage in life away from home,” he told Dazed in November. His collection Vokseværk captures the highs and lows of this formative period for Danish teens, a time where “the students will learn new things about themselves […] many will gain new strong friendships and discover new sides of themselves.”
EXPERIMENTAL RELATIONSHIP, PIXY LIAO
Across multiple cultures, there are various expectations set up for how the dynamics of a heterosexual relationship should work, be it age, roles and status. Pixy Liao’s project Experimental Relationship subverts these norms by placing her partner Moro – who is younger than Liao – in submissive positions and roles within her images while, in her double portraits, Liao appears more dominant. “I think of it [Experimental Relationship] as a notebook of my thoughts on intimate relationships,” Liao explained to Dazed back in April. “There’s a part of it that is my rebellion to the society I’m living in.”
LABOUR OF LOVE
Relationships between creative couples are often romanticised because of a shared connection over art that many couples don’t have. “I think we still don’t see so many true-to-life depictions of queer intimacy – especially when it comes to trans, intersex, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming people or queer people of colour or non-monogamy,” Megan Wallace – curator of Labour of Love – explained to Dazed in May. The collection pulls back the curtain on queer relationships bound together by a mutual love of art and allows us to explore their worlds in a respectful manner, away from the heteronormative perspective that is ever-present.
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