Photographing a Kiss: Long Time Love Affairs

3 minute read

“There is something to photographing a kiss,” says photographer Lauren Fleishman, “especially of a couple who has been together for over 50 years.”

Fleishman’s latest book The Lovers, published by Schilt, documents the love stories of couples that have been together for over five decades.

It was inspired after her grandfather’s death when she discovered a trove of love letters he had written to her grandmother during World War II. The diary found next to his bed after his death held the letters that spoke passionately of a young love — the type of hopeful love Fleishman describes as “filled with expectations of their new life together.”

In one letter, her grandfather wrote, “I love you with all my heart, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.” The letters felt timeless and instantly connected her to her grandparent’s 59-year marriage in a way that she had not been able to experience before. “They also inspired me to seek out and record the love stories of these long-term couples around the world,” says Fleishman.

When the project started, she set out to photograph 50 couples but it quickly grew to almost 100 couple around the world. On the second photo shoot, she asked the couple to kiss and in the moment she had an epiphany. “There was something perfect about how their face fit together,” she tells TIME. “In the media you just don’t normally see older people in this way. I wanted to connect people to these couples in the way that my grandfather’s letters connected me to him. I was getting so much positive feedback after sharing some of the early portraits and I realized that there was something useful about it; in a way that it can help to erase a lot of the boundaries that we have between younger and older people.”

It also helped the process of making subjects comfortable, she adds. “What I found is a remarkable sense of familiarity in that moment. Kissing helped the couples to relax in front of the camera. It allowed them to connect and remember. There is something in a kiss that allows you to see past age. Love can be new and young again.”

Lauren Fleishman is a photographer currently based in London and a regular contributor to TIME. The Lovers is published by Schilt and is available here.

Paul Moakley is the deputy director of photography at TIME and you can follow him on twitter @paulmoakley

The Lovers
Joseph and Dorothy Bolotin Sharon, Pennsylvania Married on June 16, 1938. Dorothy, "I never think of it in terms of years. I think of it in terms of good years. In love, hot romance doesn’t last forever. So I would say that yes, I think love changes. I would say we’re still in love. It’s focusing, doing little things. He’s an amazing man."Lauren Fleishman
John and Sherma CampbellStar Valley, WyomingMarried on May 13, 1955Sherma When you start out, you think you love each other as much as you possibly can,but lovegrows—just like your inner self grows as time goes by and you have experiences.And now at thisstage of the game, I love him even more. I can’t even imagine life without him.
John and Sherma Campbell Star Valley, Wyoming Married on May 13, 1955. Sherma, "When you start out, you think you love each other as much as you possibly can,but love grows—just like your inner self grows as time goes by and you have experiences.And now at this stage of the game, I love him even more. I can’t even imagine life without him."Lauren Fleishman
Jin Lin and Lai Mei ChenBrooklyn, New York Married on February 4, 1961Jin Lin We had so many things in common it was like our hearts were the same.
Jin Lin and Lai Mei Chen Brooklyn, New York Married on February 4, 1961. Jin Lin, "We had so many things in common it was like our hearts were the same."Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
de'Spagnolis Aldo de’Spagnolis and Maria Filiozzi Itri, Italy Married on October 23, 1949. Aldo, "When I first saw her, she was 14 and I was 22.Was there a concern that she was too young for me? No! Even now I look like a young child! Yes, even now I’m still young."Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
Jake and Mary Jacobs Solihull, England Married on April 27, 1948. Mary,"Jake said to me,'Would it ever be possible for me to marry you?' And I said,'Possible but not probable!' And that’s how it was. It wasn’t likely that I would ever marry him, and he knew that. So when he went home to Trinidad, my mother and father breathed a sigh of relief. But he used to write, and he said, 'I’m thinking I might come back to England.'"Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
Kissin Yevgeniy and Lyubov Kissin Brooklyn, New York Married on June 29, 1941. Yevgeniy, "We met at a dancing party. It was in January 1938. My friend invited me to the party, he said there would be a lot of beautiful young girls. Another cadet with high boots had approached her, but she didn’t like high boots and so she said no to him. I was the second one to approach her. I had a different uniform, but I’m still not sure if it was my uniform or my face that attracted her to me."Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
Itig and Golda Pollac Brooklyn, New York Married on August 13, 1946. Golda, "I would say love came little by little. Not right away.We were young.And he was older, but I liked him. He spoke to me in a very nice way."Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
Yaakov and Mariya Shapirshetyn Brooklyn, New York Married on July 6, 1949. Yaakov, "What is the secret to love? A secret is a secret, and I don’t reveal my secrets."Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
Gino and Angie Terranova Staten Island. New York Married on September 27, 1947. Angie, "You really don’t think about getting older. First of all, you’re aging together, and when you see a person constantly,you don’t notice big changes. Like you don’t notice, oh you’re getting a little wrinkle here and tomorrow you say it’s a little deeper. No, those are things that just happen."Lauren Fleishman

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