Most sexualized images we're exposed to come from either porn or advertisements and are devoid of emotional connection. In fact, they often depict the opposite: detachment, domination, and even violence. That's why I was refreshed to find artist and writer Nirrimi Firebrace's "Young Love" photography series, which features sentimental photos of a young couple sometimes in various states of undress but always with palpable tenderness and affection. The caption underneath the photos, which almost reads as a piece of flash fiction, enhances the sentimentality of the series:
In the middle of the night I am still wide awake because it takes a long time to memorise the sound of your breathing, the shape of your body and the feeling of your warm hand in mine. Soon you will be gone and these souvenir memories will be all I have left of you to hold. You will forget how my voice sounds, the jokes we laughed at until we cried and the way my tooth pokes out when I smile, but I will never forget you.
This sad excerpt conveys not just the intensity of young love but also its fleetingness, adding a bittersweet undercurrent to the images of the series' subjects, whom the website refers to as Lorelle and Jake, in the midst of various daily and nightly activities like sitting in a garden, cuddling in a bed, and taking a bath.
Also refreshingly, the photographs visually position them as equals, looking each other in the eye during a conversation and lying side to side in a bed and a tub.
Firebrace told Design Taxi that she grew comfortable depicting nudity as a 15-year-old “photographing strippers for sleazy ads,” an undertaking that couldn't be further from this project. The photographs' sentimentality and equality present a break from typical depictions of supposed physical intimacy that actually lacks intimacy. And while the photographs' subjects certainly represent a white, heterosexual ideal of a beautiful couple, the everyday scenarios they appear in are far more relatable to people in real relationships than anything you'd find in porn or stripper ads.
Assuming Jake and Lorelle are a real couple, they are lucky to have their relationship documented in such a poignant manner. As the caption reads, no matter how long their relationship lasts, they will never forget each other.
Images: Courtesy of Nirrimi Firebrace