by Thom Hudson
I fear that what I am about to write will instil in you, the reader; the perception that I am a deeply pessimistic and bewilderingly strange person, for my first love is not for a human being. Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to write about some sordid fetish, however my experience of love centres on specific places and locations.
The process of compiling a body of work that describes the deeply personal subject of love requires a high degree of self reflection and honesty. I could quite easily waffle on about my first girlfriend or my former fiancé and the gut full of butterflies I obtained with both of those encounters, but to do so would render me being dishonest to you and myself.
The places I am referring to reside entirely in my memories. Whether childhood or recent these recollections ache with melancholy and have a stark pungency to them that tears me away from reality and back to be reabsorbed in their atmospheres. The pull of these memories and the subsequent desire to return to these cherished places can at times be overwhelming, so overwhelming in fact that it has in the past destroyed significant relationships.
The reason I work as a photographic artist is due to my rather odd perception of love. Most people’s concept of love lies in the present and future tenses. For instance, normal people stay with each other because they enjoy living in the “now” with their partners and they feel fear when they consider their future without that special person. However, my idea of love is firmly rooted in the past and is in short due to my inability to appreciate the “now”. This I feel is an inherent problem with my, and future generations; we are devastatingly confused with what the hell is going on in the world today and where in this overwhelmingly bizarre time we fit. Due to this feeling and also the general unpredictable and unreliable nature of people I can only rely on significant places as a focus for my so called love.
Photographs are also objects that live almost entirely in the past; they embody my outlook on love and are therefore the perfect tool for recording the places that I revisit. This is how most of my work is created, by revisiting and reconnecting with locations from my memories and recording them photographically, or using the picture taking process to find new “special” places. The photograph is a tiny fragment of time that is snatched from reality and stored on film. Once taken this piece of time is forever falling further away into the past, getting ever more distant and irretrievable. Thus when we view a photograph, no matter how happy or sad the memory, we are hit with a pang of melancholy that hollows out our hearts.
This is how I view my memories, as photographs of places and times that I cannot reach. It is true that I can go back to these places, but it is never quite right, something is delicately different and subtly illusive. But I set up my camera and record the scene anyway, desperately trying to recapture something of the memory that drove me to return.
by Diana Thompson
There are many things in life which I love. I love a good cup of tea. I love my camera. I love that moment when a cat waltzes over and sits on your lap after hours of feline indifference.
I love your hair. I love that dress. I love this song. Love as a concept changes to fit the level of emotion which we are trying to convey, and gets banded around with a relaxed ease. It’s often read and understood within the specific perimeters of our situation – my girlfriends know when I tell them I love them, it doesn’t mean I want to run away to Vegas and get married. I love my absent family in a different way to how I love those who have ushered me into the warmth of their hearts. I love how I live in London, but on a clear night can see lots of stars from my bedroom window. They are all emotional stirrings caused by the same four letter word. Yet somehow we inherently know the difference between the love of something nice, and the love that makes you ponder an infinite future in the arms of someone else.
But what about the first love? Is it something utterly different? When asked who my first love was, my mind completely skipped past my first boyfriend to the first person I ever lived with. This was despite being sure I had loved both partners in similar ways “at the time”. Does our first love change with hindsight and new adventures? Do our memories get consigned to the back of the wardrobe, like that favourite dress from when we were 16?
I would argue that we have multiple experiences of first love. Each new romantic partner brings with it a more seasoned assortment of new feelings which feel different to how we remember them with previous partners. Although I don’t doubt the feelings I had as a teenager were any less real, life experience allows you to grow with each “new first encounter”.
I know that the love I feel for my boyfriend feels different to the love of any previous partner. I know how happy I felt when we shared our first kiss, how excited I was at the prospect of our first Christmas, the joy and anticipation of setting up a home together. Despite us both having done it all before, it felt incredibly new with the joint weekly supermarket shop acting as an adventure in domestic bliss. The way he strokes my hair makes me melt. It’s the teenage butterflies with an adult’s appreciation. A first love, combining the elements of frivolity, passion, stability and longevity.
If pressed for an answer on my first love, I would say it’s him. I’m generally not the soppy type, but I find myself uttering to girlfriends how “I’ve never felt this way before”. Anyway who can make me say and feel things like that must be a first. He makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world every day.
by Georgina McNamara
When I was 14 I looked at his woodcuts and paintings and felt that I had found someone who totally understood me. It didn’t matter that he was dead.
His work inspired me to write cliched angst-ridden poetry after school in my bedroom. Since then I have associated his work with my awkward adolescence.
Recently I went to see his paintings in a major London gallery show. I was nervous about being horribly disappointed. But it was wonderful!
by Alexander Alekseenko
I’m going to tell a story of my love to the band Nirvana. So I’ve been listening to some of the most mainstream hits by Nirvana when I was a kid, just like everyone else did, you know. Smells like teen spirit, rape me, heart shaped box etc. And never thought that the story behind the front man’s life would get so deep into me. My friend Alina is a big Nirvana fan, so I was listening to it a lot, and at some point I got into it so hard that I wanted to know more. So I’ve read a couple of biographical books about the band and Kurt himself, listened to all b-sides and rare recordings, watched almost all footage one can find. I ended up being a huge fan of the work Kurt did and Nirvana has became one of the few band that I can’t skip when shuffle plays it in my ipod or anywhere else.
This picture is taken at a Nirvana’s cover party dedicated to Kurt’s bday and hosted by a local night club. I was a bit buzzed and headed to the bar to have a drink and this guy was standing in front of me wearing a Cobain hoodie and his hair was lying on it like it was Kurt’s. It was surreal.
by Corinna Spencer
When I was a little girl I loved the cream box that sat up high, just out of reach. It had an embossed pattern of swirling leaves, it was heavy to lift, probably.
I have distant memories, but they may not be true, of peeking inside and carefully opening the book that lay inside the beautiful box. Gently turning each heavy page and then each piece of silky tissue paper.
Of course now that I am older, and I own the box and it still sits up high just out of reach, I can look at it anytime I please.
And I do, often. My parents, on their wedding day.
by Chelsea Fagan
I had a high-school sweetheart. I don’t know how many of you did, but it’s something I’d heartily recommend if you’re still in the age group to have one. I also had a middle-school sweetheart, though that relationship mostly consisted of holding hands and playing GTA III while his mother brought us Kool-Aid. At the time, of course, it was extremely serious and difficult and riddled with 13-year-old drama. There were a lot of accusations of kissing another girl at the spring dance and not meeting each other at the Royal Farms to walk home from school together. However, despite the tumultuous road we walked, we were certain that we would end up married one day, if only we could make it through those 9th grade honors courses together. As it turned out, we didn’t even make it through the summer before high school—he got a new bicycle and clearly bigger things were happening for him.
And then, after the pathway had been cleared up for someone with the potential to one day get a learner’s permit, I got a high-school sweetheart. As those of you who had one will know, it is the strangest combination of a deep, consuming, almost unhealthy love, and all of the levity and humor of publicly going through puberty. You don’t know where you are, you certainly don’t know who you are, and this “love” that you have found becomes a buoy in an incredibly heavy storm. There is an overwhelming feeling that everyone is falling in love, everyone is in on some secret club you’re not a part of, and if you don’t find love yourself—there are only so many song quotes you can put on your blog to compensate.
So you find someone, and you settle into a cozy little imitation of what you think relationships should be. You have all of the movies, books, and Yellowcard songs you could ever need to tell you what love looks like—what shape and color it is, at least—and now it’s up to you to reconstruct it. You will start fights over a chicken nugget at lunch, freak out about who is going to pick you up from the dance, and profess undying loyalty at all of two weeks into the relationship. It’s cute, of course, because none of it has any real consequence. Unless, of course, you become a Teen Mom™, in which case you can just get your own show on MTV and live off the residuals into your mid-sixties. Either way, for the most part, it’s a pretty light-hearted affair, a high school sweetheart.
Everything is a sort of pantomime of intimacy and sincerity, and like the dog blissfully piloting the plane, we have no idea what’s going on. Strangely, though, these relationships—no matter how absurd when reflected upon with even a few months’ worth of maturity and growth—can echo for a long time. There is a certain soft spot we hold for this time, the other person, and everything we clumsily did together. I still wonder what my high school sweetheart is doing and, though I have no romantic interest in him, get upset at the thought that another girl would be doing anything to hurt him. When I heard, throughout the years since we’ve split, that someone with the capacity to do serious emotional damage (unlike me, who was capable of inflicting a scratch at most in the scheme of things), I got extremely angry. Protective. It was almost like, having seen me at the formative, awkward moments of my life and loving me anyway, he became a member of extended family. Hell, even my mother still asks about him.
And this can’t be said for other people I’ve been with since, even if the relationships ended on the best of notes. For some reason, though the relationships themselves were surely comprised of things more sincere and of greater emotional depth than the arguments and make-ups I carried out in the locker banks, they haven’t rippled through time quite as easily. I suppose it’s a time in your life when your are so impressionable, so fragile, so desperate to be accepted and appreciated for who you are that the idea of someone loving you makes you forever grateful. I think about the girl I was at 15, 16, 17—how insecure, acne-riddled, and inconsistent—and feel I owe my high school sweetheart a thank you for letting me know that I was good enough in some way. Sure, we have the love of friends and family, but when you’re just discovering what sexuality and romance even are, it’s essential to get your membership in the “dating” and “love” clubs.
Sure, it’s ridiculous looking back on your sweetheart sometimes, it’s funny to think of the immense mountains we were able to construct out of the most insignificant of molehills—but it’s beautiful. We were lucky enough to have found someone to grow with, to change with, and—perhaps most importantly—to be completely ourselves with. At 16, knowing someone sees your flaws and wants to be with you regardless is better than winning the lottery. He will always have given me that, no matter what may happen later in life. And today, if you dare break his heart, I’ll break your kneecaps.