Theme: Intimacy

Photo: Luis Gonjalez Palma

Photo: Luis Gonjalez Palma

Quiet moments, tender thoughts, wistful emptiness make up our love songs. Raindrops on misty windowpanes, the cool breeze of dusk, dry leaves, fill our odes to belonging. We pine. Almost inaudibly we whisper, I miss you. Intimacy is most intensely felt through absence. The warmth of togetherness, shared secrets, discovered moments remind us of how it had been. I miss you, we whisper again. Intimacy is personal. Bitter sweet. Painful. Exuberant. Wondrous.

But merchandised through Valentine’s Days and anniversaries, fetishised by the sex industry, marketed ad-nauseum by advertising agencies and appropriated by consumer culture, a very different public expression of intimacy comes to the fore. Glittering diamonds and romantic holidays mark the celebration of intimate moments, we are told. Solitude found in remote villas, faraway destinations and exotica, with no expenses spared, are the measure of true love. Intimacy, like all else is a product to be bought. Physical, material, tradable. With intimacy indicators available in multiple currencies.

So is intimacy global? Does one size fit all? Is closeness measurable? What are our most intimate moments? Are we intimate with God? Is it about dark secrets, moments shared? What words do we choose to describe intimacy? Is it about closeness, warmth, trust? Do these words mean the same to everyone? Ami tomai bhalobashi  is how one would say ‘I love you’ in Bangla. “I feel good about you” is about as close as it might translate. Is it that cosyness, the lack of fear, the comfort of a reassuring voice? Where it is not proper to be holding hands, is intimacy about recognizing a footstep? Listening to a familiar heartbeat?

How would an artist take the word beyond the clichés of sex, romance and stolen trysts? How intimate is one with oneself? What would Google Translate make of a word like obhiman?  Would the algorithm churn out hurt, or anger, or pain or disappointment? Would it express them all and more? Grasp an emotion that only the intimate can feel?  Sense a pain only one ever so close can inflict? Imply a breach of trust, even though no promises have been made? Allude to an expectation that relies not on logic but an elusive sense of belonging? Can it sense a tear that has not yet been shed? Hear a stifled sob? Is there a word for a backward glance that was never made? Can it foresee a smothered sigh or a quivering lip? What tone is joy? What colour is pain?

We invite photographers to probe into the depths of personal space. To reach out to the wider universe. To challenge perceptions of belonging. To question ideas of ownership and bonding. To bring back stories of intimacy that will touch our souls and fire our imagination.