Legendary love stories, defiant romances, and primal erotica: ahead of Valentine’s Day, we round up the best photography to get your heart racing
Heather Glazzard and Nora Nord put their relationship in front of the camera for this tender, intimate photo series. The project, titled Porridge, showcases over 80 photos of the couple at home and in love. For Glazzard, it was an opportunity to share an alternative, genderfluid vision of romance, in defiance of the heteronormative mainstream media. “I am finally beginning to get rid of the shame that is often attached to a couple that doesn’t involve a man,” they told AnOther in 2019.
American collectors Barbara Levine and Paige Ramey spent years rummaging through flea markets, garage sales, and eBay for forgotten old shots of people kissing. The outcome is now available to view in their book, People Kissing, which assembles 100 years worth of anonymous archive photography. “This collection is a testament to our inherent curiosity, occasional voyeurism, and constant delight in catching other people in a moment of connection,” says Levine.
Sunil Gupta’s defiant portraits of gay love were taken in 1980s London during the height of the Aids crisis. It was a tragic period for the LGBTQ+ community, made worse by vicious press coverage and an unsympathetic state. “The press reaction to Aids was really horrific at first,” recalls the photographer. “There were all these front-page stories about the ‘gay plague’.” Gupta’s Lovers series countered this stigma by focusing only on positivity, spotlighting gay couples who were simply, and proudly, in love.
In the 1970s, photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki would regularly visit Tokyo‘s public parks. Armed with an infrared camera, he would secretly capture the clandestine encounters of Japanese couples after dark, exposing the city’s apparently flourishing dogging community. The mesmeric and unsettling images – which were considered scandalous at the time – ended up being republished 40 years later as a photography book. “I think I’m completely ordinary,” Yoshiyuki told Nobuyoshi Araki in 1980. “But I think there is a bit of lecher in everyone.”
Queer polymath Hervé Guibert made art, novels and films about human nature’s deepest (and darkest) desires. His work is erotic, sombre and meditative, juxtaposing sensual nudes with jolting reminders of death and mortality. Mostly created during the 1980s, his art was given a new lease of life last year thanks to the release of photography book ... of lovers, time, and death.
This untitled series by Ethan James Green went on show as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Made up of eight monochrome portraits, each of a New York-based couple, the series was described by Green as “like chapter two of [his first monograph] Young New York. They are all people I have remained close to after the book.”
Mark McKnight’s monograph, Heaven is a Prison, follows two men as they surrender to desire in the Californian desert. The black and white series blends primal erotica with abstract, organic landscapes, and was partly inspired by Biblical themes of shame, desire and salvation. “I wanted a viewer to imagine these men and this landscape as being bound, for better or worse, by a kind of universal cycle,” the artist told AnOther last year.
Photographer Brian Hamill spent the 1970s with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, shooting the legendary couple at home in New York. The resulting book, Dream Lovers, offers a surprisingly intimate, loving, and candid portrait of the pair. “They had such humanity,” Hamill remembers, fondly. “When we went out on the streets, they never made themselves seem more important than the people who stopped them to say hello.”
“I wanted to depict sex from a participant’s point of view, rather than from a voyeur’s,” says artist Paul Smith, of his sensual monochrome series The Human Curve. Shot entirely on a pinhole camera, the 1980s project is a tribute to queer sensuality, filled with snatched, shakey glimpses of sex acts and passionate trysts.
Berlin zine DADDY bills itself as “inclusive, intersectional and sexy content”. Founded by Kemi Fatoba and Joe Von Hutch, the publication aims to platform as many marginalised communities as possible, in an effort to counter the cis, white stereotypes that surround Berlin’s queer scene. This beautiful photo story by Felton Kizer featured in its latest issue.