July 24, 2005
  Two Sites
Two beautiful sites I stumbled across the other day -- Helena Kvarnstrom's and Tina Mclelland's itsalwaysthequietones -- made me think (incoherently) about intimacy in photography, especially across the net like this. Both sites touch on intimacy in interesting ways: Helena K. makes several mentions of it ("i want to take pictures of intimacy, and for me that is..."), and Tina M.'s self-portraits are relentlessly revealing in one way or another (though whether they reveal anything about Tina M. herself is a seperate issue).

But "revealing" isn't necessarily the same as "intimate", and the sort of domesticity that shows (which has its own intimacy, as does all good domestica) seems inward-looking and almost excludes the viewer. Intimacy is a two-way thing, it's not the same as exhibiting or even baring, it's about shared secrets, and -- crucially -- the recognition that comes with that sharing, the knowledge both people have of those secrets, and the knowledge of each other's knowledge. And intimacy's not intimacy if nothing's at stake -- on both sides (or all sides).

In the same way that proximity isn't the same thing as closeness, letting someone in to yourself -- in whatever way -- is not itself necessarily being intimate. Intimacy's not just in the eye of the beholder, it's in the minds of both parties to intimacy. In fact the immediacy of the net -- the proximity, even the closeness -- can be a distancing thing, in the same way that people often use the phone or email to be able to say they're keeping in touch while actually keeping the person at the other end at a safe distance.

Voyeurism is not intimacy, either. The object of the voyeurism may be intimacy, but that's not the same thing at all. For me both and Tina M. achieve a voyeuristic view of intimacy, I guess, rather than intimacy itself. Nothing deep or profound here: it's much easier to show it than to achieve it. Neither site claims to achieve intimacy, either, so this isn't a criticism -- just some scambled thoughts on a dead day.

Note: I like both sites very much, and keep returning to them repeatedly. What I absolutely love about Tina Mclelland in these images is her mercurial or Protean face -- take a look at the difference between the face in something like "One Way" and that in "maid 4 u". Like Cindy Sherman, but without the clothing props... or Natasha Merritt with self-knowledge and a sense of humour.
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Hamish Reid is a photographer, designer, and software engineer living and working in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. This is his full profile.

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