how do you photograph love and loneliness?
Photographer Sam Hellmann explains the story behind her new project, a photo zine borne out of a single image that seemed to articulate a very particular feeling.
Sam Hellmann’s new photo zine, Love and Loneliness, all started with a photo she took a couple summers back of her brother Liam lying by the pool. “He was sleeping and I thought he looked so sweet. You can see the shadow of my hand on his face, I placed it there quite spontaneously,” she explains, a few days before the zine officially launches at Ofr bookshop in Paris. “For a second I wanted to caress his cheek, but I didn’t want to wake him up.” The resulting black-and-white image, which marks the beginning of her zine, had a depth to it that Sam felt she could tie together with other work she’d made. “The shadow translates as an act of presence and absence at the same time.”
Love and loneliness are emotions constantly at the fore of modern life, and although we’re all too familiar with the reasons why we all can feel entirely connected yet completely detached from those around us, the nuances of how this can be experienced aren’t always articulated convincingly. Why do we sometimes feel our most isolated when we’re the most needed? “Feeling lonely while being in love is definitely an inspiring mix that I’ve been experiencing for a few years and is the emotion behind some of the photos. The series also reflects different kinds of love I’ve experienced, fraternal love, the love of a moment, of a memory, loving loneliness. The goal was to create a selection in which each photo is a reflection of something I feel or have felt within the theme of love and loneliness.”
The resulting story takes in a spectrum of different experiences. A sleeping body wrapped in a duvet, a bustling nightclub, a child crying at the table. The story Sam seeks to tell across these images is that, whatever point in life you’re at, whatever environment you’re placed in, love and loneliness intersect in curious, unpredictable ways. “I read somewhere -- the quiet part of the song is a part of the song -- which represents very well this project and what I try to say with my images.
“I guess the most challenging thing in the end for me is to have something that is truthful and personal but not too personal that people feel excluded from it. It’s about finding a way to translate an emotion that feels intimate and specific to your story so that the person looking sees in it their own.”
Photography Sam Hellmann