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PASSION, ROMANCE AND ACUTE DESIRE, OR WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE KISSING PEOPLE

A selection of photos showing couples kissing and how people felt differently in front of the camera. The end of the late Victorian era. All images from the collection of Barbara Levin / Project B (Barbara Levine / Project B).

Two pairs of sweaty palms, eyes tightly closed. Two parted mouth. And sometimes two hearts that pound from such a strong desire and excitement. A kiss — such a simple act of romance — is hard to explain. But Barbara Levine and Paige Raimi from Project B, a group that “collects and stores old folk photos,” are trying to do it.

For almost two decades, Miss Levine and Miss Rami oversaw the collections of found images to better understand the human interest in photographing seemingly worldly pursuits such as knitting or fishing. Their latest book, People Kiss: A Century of Photography (People’s Kissing: A Century of Photographs), Princeton Architectural Press, is a collection of images found by a couple in photo archives that they have accumulated over the years with eBay, from garage sales and from people who didn’t know what to do with boxes of family photos. The book includes more than 100 photographs and postcards relating to the Victorian period of the end of the XIX century, with people kissing at the camera.

“When you look at the photo you found, you touch the story,” Mrs. Levin said all the time, “so when I began to notice how many images we had of people kissing in the archive, it seemed like a starting point for discussion, for real expertise “.

Kissing is a common gesture. We see him in movies and regular posts on social networks. But this act became something worthy of being imprinted on people who lived a little more than a century ago, wrote Miss Levin and Miss Rami along with Peter L. Stein in an introductory essay in a book. Photographs and postcards from the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries demonstrate an awkward and unnatural formality, despite the intimacy of the moment, thanks to the fact that the objects of the shooting “remained motionless during the whole exposition time,” they wrote.

The attached text to many images reflects the conservative feelings of the time: “Keep healthy” – reads one postcard of 1911 with a man in a suit and white gloves who puts one on a woman with slightly open eyes; the other uses a lustful smile to warn viewers about the dangers of infidelity.

It would seem that the endless stock of photographs in the archives allowed Miss Levin and Miss Rami to show how the manners around kisses and romance changed over the years. “You observe how our photographic literacy develops over the years, there are interesting details in different eras,” Ms. Levin is sure, “therefore an important part of the story is to try to tell it through changed ideas and trends.”

Photos of tender moments between same-sex couples have become more common in their collection over the years. At the same time, pictures of the 1950s reflect an increase in the youthful uprising: passionate, outspoken, on picnic blankets with disheveled hair and woven bodies, as well as near the snowy shores during a night walk, with a young couple not paying attention to the reaction of their friends .

Kiss, as shown by these photographs, does not always require exposing the soul. Interspersed with love moments there are more dramatic and humorous pictures. Adults persuade kids to imitate them, and childhood friends, giggling, gently kiss each other’s cheeks. And it begs the question whether it was an expression of the feeling of loyalty or just a desire to speak in front of the camera, which inspired a person to reach out to everyone else to touch his partner’s lips.

Many of these images can serve as a kind of trigger for us to reflect on our own kissing experience. For someone, the passionate embrace of a couple in a chair for two can bring back memories of an exciting nerve and their own experiences in a similar situation. In the meantime, others may be embarrassed by how they once looked – as ridiculous as a man in swimming trunks, stuck out his tongue before a French kiss.

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