Of Love & Intimacy: 2 Homegrown Photographers On How They Translate Stories To Frames

Of Love & Intimacy: 2 Homegrown Photographers On How They Translate Stories To Frames

There is so much that is said in a brief moment of hands touching, in the inexplicable tenderness of everyday moments, the joy and vulnerabilities that unfold in relationships or between two people without bold declarations or grand moments. The ease and comfort of existing in the same space as another.

Human connections and intimacy are at the core of our life experiences, it is something we crave. It’s no wonder that among the gravest problems confronting the post-modern subjects, the loneliness epidemic is high on the list.

While we don’t know what allows us to feel at ease in front of another person, what allows us the space to be vulnerable, there is something poetic about the intimacy between two people. Translating that subject to their frames are two photographers – Mohit Tiwari and Raqeeb Raza. In our conversation, they open up on what intimacy means to them and how they translate those moments of tenderness and vulnerability onto their work.

What’s the story that you wish to capture with your frames?

Photographer and aspiring filmmaker Mohit Tiwari’s portraits are an honest exploration of love and melancholy. Translating them into spellbinding frames he weaves narratives of connection and identity. He says:

One thing that I really wish to capture and convey through my frames is real life queer stories. I want to talk about their journey, their stories of self-acceptance and how they perceive love. I have already started working on it. I would also like to work with elderly people and capture their stories and perspective of love and life.

— Mohit Tiwari
Raqeeb Raza's Portraits On Intimacy Are A Reflection On Reality

Writer, researcher and photographer Raqeeb Raza’s work has always presented itself as an antithesis to the mainstream representation of masculinity, sexuality and gender. His photographic work explores the dynamic of queerness, belonging, migration, intimacy, connection and body image issues. He says:

I mostly document rather than capture. Hence, the story is mostly reality or a reflection of the reality. I try to work on personal experiences, whether it be of the subjects or mine. Sometimes the series is a reflection of what I am going through or have gone through and some other times it documenting the reality that the subjects are going through.

— Raqeeb Raza

How do you perceive the idea of intimacy and convey that in your work? What does intimacy mean for you?

Intimacy is about touch and closeness between people, but it is not limited to that. For me, intimacy also means the emotional space two people create for each other. The space where you are comfortable enough to express every emotion that makes you human. Like in my recent work ‘Amaya’, I tried to cover the small details between the subjects which included their conversations, laughs, the silence, smile and touch.

— Mohit Tiwari
Mohit Tiwari's Portraits On Intimacy & Vulnerability

Intimacy for me is first and foremost about comfort and transparency. It is a vulnerable moment and you can only be yourself if you are at your comfortable best with the person concerned. 

In regards to how I do it for my series, I just try to focus on the little details. Oftentimes when we are working around intimacy, the act becomes the foreground, but my focus is mostly on the little things; like how the hands are touching each other, or how a person feels warmth when they hug a loved one. 

I try to go into these details through both my personal experience and also from the subjects’ experience.

— Raqeeb Raza

Lastly, what is your creative process when you are documenting these tender and sometimes vulnerable moments?

Each artist has their own unique process when it comes to creativity and what they wish to achieve with their work. Intimacy is all about comfort so it comes as no surprise that what almost instinctively felt like a common factor for both Raqeeb and Mohit when it came to their process was creating a safe space for their subjects, a place of comfort, understanding and open communication.

Raqeeb Raza's Portraits On Love, Intimacy & Queerness

So there are usually two kinds of intimate shoots I have done, one, where two models/subjects have coupled up for the shoot, and the other, where I have documented real-life couples. The process is mostly similar for all my shoots, it usually runs for 5-6 hours and there are a lot of conversations. 

I love to talk to people, get to know them, so the first few hours, we just talk to each other, get to know the vulnerabilities and insecurities, get to know what and how they feel love. This whole thing makes the subject really comfortable, and that’s where the shoot starts. In regards to shoots, I usually give people situations, or scripts (in case I have written something for the particular series already) and then I just ask them to feel what a person would feel going through that scenario. 

In a way, all you see in my images are a reflection of reality in that way because the subjects are actually feeling all those emotions in that space.

— Raqeeb Raza

Before the shooting process starts, the entire team, especially the subjects, invest a lot of time in getting to know each other and be comfortable in working together as a unit. It’s very important for the subjects to get comfortable with each other to be vulnerable and at ease in front of the camera. And when the actual shooting starts, I let my subjects be themselves and do their own thing.

— Mohit Tiwari

Checkout Mohit’s work here.

Checkout Raqeeb’s work here.

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