The Valentine’s Edit
A look at love and intimacy through the lens of Magnum photographers, from Leonard Freed to Alec Soth.
Raymond Depardon captures the decisive moment of a kiss shared at the Guggenheim, as other couples form a visual echo below on the Museum’s famous spiral ramp. Similarly, Leonard Freed’s image ‘Youth in West Berlin’ contrasts couples, one locked in an embrace and the other seemingly dejected. Taken in Berlin’s Tiergarten in 1965, the two sets of lovers suggest the newfound freedoms of the cultural and sexual revolution.
Kisses are scattered throughout the collection; freely given and seemingly unobserved. Alec Soth’s ‘Two Towels’ offers a different take as a pair of towel swans are posed in a kiss, their outstretched necks forming a heart. Part of his project Niagara, Soth took to Niagara Falls where newlyweds and runaway couples have played out their romances in the ‘honeymoon capital’ of the world. His muted images of dated hotel rooms are punctuated by a mislaid, but tender, nostalgia.
More than a visual motif, Elliott Erwitt used couples as a way to bring sensibility to the fore of the image. “The subject is of great interest to me,” said Elliott, “having been half of one myself now and again — blissfully sometimes, sometimes not so.” He returned to the subject throughout his photography career, drawn to the visual symmetry of pairs like in his scene of Parisienne streetlife, or to quiet displays of intimacy as in his glimpse of a couple dancing in a kitchen.