Imagine, if you will, the history of photography told through the lens of love. This is the starting point for Love Songs: Photography and Intimacy, a traveling exhibition and book featuring the work of photographers including Nobuyoshi Araki, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, Collier Schorr, and Leigh Ledare that explore the tender complexities of love, loss, and bliss.
Drawing inspiration from Goldin’s seminal The Ballad of Sexual Dependency and Araki’s landmark Sentimental Journey, Love Songs embraces radical intimacy between photographer, subject, and viewer in a shared moment of profound trust, care, and vulnerability.
Conceived by Simon Baker as a mixtape that conjures the visions of paramours exchanging their deepest desires through an exquisitely curated playlist of songs, Love Songs now travels to the International Center of Photography, where guest curator Sara Raza remixes the visual playlist to give it a decidedly New York twist.
Driven by her interest in recontextualizing and intertwining histories, engaging with alternative realities and political imaginings, Raza introduces the works of Aikaterini Gegisian, Clifford Prince King, Sheree Hovsepian, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, and Fouad Elkour to explore themes of desire, contradiction, collision, distortion, reality, and aftermath. While romance forms the central heart of the exhibition, it also integrates elements of kinship across family, friendship, partnership, and community to consider the intricately layered roots of love that shape our daily lives.
“Love Songs intertwines real and fictional narratives that traverse local, global, and digital realms,” says Raza. “The works on view can be seen as subversive artistic proposals for exploring notions of love and its recipients.”
Raza points to the work of Clifford Prince King, which celebrates queer Black love while bearing witness to changing and divided societies. “Within the context of US history, these photographs also shed light on broader social issues surrounding the struggle for Black liberation and the occupation of public space and time,” she says.
Artist Sheree Hovsepian, originally from Iran, creates mixed-media assemblages with her sister as protagonist that meditate on the fragmented female body. “These works not only evoke notions of kinship and resemblance but also hold a mirror to Orientalist fantasies that have had an unfortunate tendency of eroticizing or mythologizing the female form,” Raza explains.
“Love Songs embraces a nostalgic quality, capturing the interplay of various frequencies and energies that intertwine and encapsulate the enigmatic nature of love,” says Raza. “There is a poetic resonance in this exhibition in considering the connection between the mixed tape analogy and photography. Both serve as repositories that hold and shape our memories, and can be revisited and reimagined.”
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