The Intimacy Project

Definitions of intimacy in English:

  1. Closeness of observation or knowledge of a subject
  2. Close familiarity or friendship
  3. A cozy and private or relaxed atmosphere
  4. The state of having a close personal relationship with somebody

I first noticed this whenever I talk to someone who’s taller than me or is physically standing or sitting in a position where they have to look downwards towards me. Because their peripheral vision lies above my head, they can’t really dart left and right with their eyes in distraction because it is a lot more obvious that they’re not paying full attention as opposed to if they were at eye-level with me.

So they tend to focus more attention downwards to whoever they’re talking to.

My personal definition of intimacy means giving your full and undivided attention to a person. And there is something intimate and familiar about a downward glance. It’s a warmer, more inviting look that communicates acknowledgement and attention.

When translating this into photos, I realized that it’s always in the eyes. Or rather, how I position eyes in a photograph.

Oftentimes as travel photographers moving through a region, we have a few minutes, seconds even, to try to connect with strangers and create a portrait of them that tries to capture their spirit as best as we can. And this can be challenging.

When I take portraits of people, I always try to visually elevate them. Meaning, I either shoot at eye-level or from an inch or two below them so they’re looking downwards towards the camera. This not only subconsciously puts them in an elevated position of power, it also lets the viewers see and connect to them as a person first. As they are. And not necessarily judge them based on their surroundings.

This has led me to this project – The Intimacy Project.

Over the course of the year, I’ll be photographing two portraits of friends as well as strangers and acquaintances to help communicate this intuitive feeling I see when I visually elevate people. The first would be at or close to eye-level and the second will be that downward glance. The downward glance could be slight or a bit more exaggerated but you should be able to see the difference in warmth and approachability which communicates intimacy and instant connection.

Click here for the full gallery of images.