Sam Hiscox

this photographer is capturing the messier moments of romance

Georgie Wright

Sam Hiscox isn't here to shoot Hallmark cards, thanks.

Sam Hiscox

Capturing romance on camera is hard. It’s easy to fall into saccharine cliches: sunsets, beaches, couples snogging over a candlelit medium rare steak and miraculously not setting their hair alight. The reality of love is much messier, murkier, hair fully on fire territory.

It’s the latter that Sam Hiscox was interested in for his zine, What is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me. The London-based photographer has been married to his camera since the ripe old age of six. “I still have pictures I took when I was six years old and I remember the day my parents bought a video camera to record our family holidays,” he told us last year. “They never saw it again.”

It’s the minutiae of everyday life that Sam’s been honing in on ever since -- whether he’s snapping his gran and grandad’s 70th wedding anniversary, or holding exhibitions to remind everyone to chill the fuck out. Or collating this zine: there’s awkward open-eyed kissing, an elderly lover clutching crutches, a builders bum at Crufts (“The World’s Greatest Dog Show”) and some good old-fashioned puppy love.

“It’s a series that started flooding into my memory one time,” he says of the project -- photos accumulated over years of playing candid camera to his surroundings. “I like to document the life around me.” This explains why the majority of shots are of friends, who are all used to his photographic inclinations, and/or in pursuit of their own. “No one cares at all if there’s a camera around, it’s no big deal.” Cue a collection of genuinely natural moments, as opposed to someone looking contemplatively at a house plant when you ask them to act candid.

Paradoxically, the inclination to shoot relationships was born out of heartbreak. “I was single at the time I put it together, and had just had come out of a pretty shitty breakup.” Naturally, that invoked a more pessimist perception of romance -- love’s a myth and you’re never going to date anyone ever again. Until you do. “I think maybe I came out on the other side, and finding it really nice to be around people again,” Sam says.

With his rediscovered appreciation for connection, he started combing through his archive for shots of couples, friends, connections. The editing process was minimal -- it wasn’t so much about the perfect frame; more about the imperfect moments in between. Which in a way reflects love a bit, doesn’t it? The idea that when you’re in the throes of affection, you give much less of a fuck about what it looks like to the outside world? “I hadn’t thought of that,” Sam says, “but that makes complete sense.”