The Lovers is a photographic series of couples that have shared their lives for more than 50 years. Inspired by a love letter written by Lauren Fleishman‘s grandfather to her grandmother early in their marriage, Lauren was moved to find more intertwined souls like theirs. Through colour photographs, voice recordings and text, she documents the stories of intimacy and commitment of elderly couples across the United States and Europe.
“This project was inspired by a series of love letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother during World War II that I found in a book next to his bed. The letters spoke of a young love, the type filled with expectations of a new life together. They connected me to my grandfather and his 59-year marriage in a way that I had not been able to connect to him in life. The letters inspired me to seek out and record the love stories of other long-married couples“, Lauren Fleishman says.
As a photographer, she has always been attracted to the beauty of love and lovers. Her project extends this attraction to a domain that is largely unexplored, and more importantly, not well documented visually. Like her other work, this project addresses both artistic and documentary angles: sociology and the human geography of emotions, as well as the aesthetics of the body. In this work, colour photographs are combined with interviews where the subjects, elderly couples intimately involved for over five decades, describe their love and relationship. Couples from different backgrounds provide a look at the realities of love: how the previous generation experienced it, survived it, and, more importantly, how it appears in their lives. The body politics of the project become especially clear when gay and lesbian couples or couples with ill spouses are considered. In this respect, Fleishman’s pictures play a central role in addressing homophobia and increasing awareness of age-related issues.
Fleishman has been working on her project in the very intimate settings of her subjects’ homes. She has even photographed the couple holding the title of longest married in the world. The viewer sees how their love reflects and how this love has grown and adapted over time. The intimacy of the photographs creates an interesting effect on people – both intriguing and surprising – showing that viewers share some of the feelings that she put on her work. The beauty in the pictures might not often be immediate, but the aesthetic is compassionate and tries to almost see as young couples.
About the photographer: Lauren Fleishman is an American photographer based in England. Born and raised in New York, she attended the School of Visual Arts and was awarded a full scholarship to study at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Fleishman’s professional career began when her first body of work, created during her senior year in college, was published in The New York Times Magazine at the age of 22. She has been a visiting artist at The School of Visual Arts, New School, International Center of Photography and Rochester Institute of Technology. She is a regular contributor to M, le magazine du Monde, The New York Times and Time Magazine. Her first book, The Lovers, will be published in early 2015 by Schilt.