The December 11 issue of The New Yorker features Elinor Carucci’s arresting close-up photograph of a kiss, shot on assignment to accompany a short story by Kristen Roupenian. The story, about the self-deceptions and self-abnegation of a young woman who goes on a couple of dates with an older man, has drawn a lot of attention, at least in part, one could argue, because Carucci’s photo is such an inducement to read it. The photograph, which is deceptively simple, manages to capture a “grisly imbalance of desire,” as New Yorker staff writer Amanda Petrusich explains in an interview with Carucci about how the image was created—with a real-life couple as her models.
Here’s a short excerpt of that interview. The full interview, available on The New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog, is well worth reading.
Amanda Petrusich: Did you know you wanted his mouth to be open and hers to be closed?
Elinor Carucci: In the story, [the protagonist-narrator] talks about how aggressive and overwhelming his kiss is. He’s doing too much. His tongue is in her throat. I wanted to try and get something that would feel like she’s gentle and he’s just doing too much. With every photo shoot, I have an idea of what I want to get, but then when you’re there, with people, they’re who they are—and there’s a dynamism to their feel, their physicality, their smell, what they’re doing, and I have to follow that.
AP: The blackness between his lips feels really purposeful.
EC: The kisses were so alive. They were happening right in front of me. But we did play with almost-kissing, kissing, slow-motion kissing. I tried to work with who they were, but also to direct them in a way that would allow me to take pictures. Some of it was also about—I don’t want to sound too poetic—but it was about the conceptual space between a couple, any couple. Even if you’ve been married for 20 years, there’s something that’s always there, between two people. With the composition, I wanted to create that space.
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