Images of Intimacy, Passion and Affection in the Age of #MeToo

It’s coming up to Valentine’s Day and in the past week I’ve been looking through my photo catalogue for images I’ve taken on the theme of love, passion and romance. I recently encountered an interesting article in The Washington Post written by Monica Hesse. She discusses an iconic photograph dating from the end of WW2. The image features a sailor passionately kissing a woman, who is dressed in white. She is practically doing a backbend from the force of the kiss and the tight hold. The photograph is entitled “VJ Day in Times Square, New York, NY, 1945” by Alfred Eisenstaedt and was on the cover of LIFE magazine. The sailor in question was George Mendonsa who died last February aged 95. Apparently he had assumed that the random passerby was a nurse. In the article the woman, Greta Zimmer Friedman is quoted as saying “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vise grip …I felt he was very strong, he was just holding me tight . . . it wasn’t really a romantic even,” and that “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed.

This reminded me of another iconic scene – Rhett Butler carrying Scarlett O’Hara up the stairs in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind – which now divides viewers opinions. Is this the height of passion and desire or a prelude to rape? The photo below was taken at the Cinema Hotel in Tel Aviv, a former art deco cinema containing many original artefacts. This larger than life promotional painting features actors Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and somewhat crystallises the aforementioned scene. I like the combination of the images with the Hebrew lettering which spells out Chalaf Im Ha’Rooach, Hebrew for Gone With The Wind:

We never really know what the real story is behind an image. I like to think all the couples in the photos I have taken are in consensual, loving relationships. The following photographs were taken recently in New York. The first features a couple on Brooklyn Bridge. They are both dressed very similarly, and the triangular positioning of the man’s legs reinforces the geometry and perspective in the composition. To me they appear quite connected; I like the way her legs fit in between his and their torsos merge so they could almost be a single unit – a four legged animal with feet in both directions.

The next photo was taken on the New York subway. To me the guy seems very relaxed; I like the way he is resting his head on the shoulder and the intimate hand holding. It is as if she is receiving warmth in both hands – from his hand and from her takeaway coffee cup. Again there is twinning in terms of their clothes – they both wear glasses and similar coloured jackets:

I perceive a connection and intimacy in this photo of two women dancing the tango. This is not just dancing cheek to cheek, but forehead to forehead. I took this shot a long time ago, back in 2005 in London’s Regents Park. But then, as a dancer I also know that you can have a great connection with someone on the dance floor that does not translate beyond the music and the floor. Sorry to be a spoilsport!:

Here are a few more images of kisses and embraces. The image below was taken in Covent Garden. I perceive this as a good kiss, the way she is caressing him and standing on tip toes in her Dr. Martens. Everything is spiky too – the fur and his hair are all a bit electrified:

The next photo was taken in Paris in 2013 on the Pont Des Arts. The bridge because a popular destination where lovers would attach padlocks to the bridge and then throw the key into the River Seine. I haven’t visited the spot recently but I’ve read the padlocks were dismantled back in 2015 due to the amount of weight damaging the bridge:

Another bridge, this time in Venice, for a couple getting married. I think they were posing for a photoshoot and that rather than being a spontaneous gesture, the groom was instructed to hold her like that:

Next a series of photos featuring murals and street art that represent romance and passion. Below a mural celebrating gay marriage in San Francisco’s Castro District by street artist Deb foregrounding two smiling men and a wedding proposal:

Seen in Turin in 2017, this is a reworking of the iconic kiss between Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg from Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita by street artist Blub, whose signature style involves putting goggles on his representations:

And finally detail of a mural attributed to Banksy seen in London’s Soho back in 2005 of two kissing policemen entitled Kissing Coppers:

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