Images of intimacy, are often suggested, as a foregone conclusion, as images of love, closeness, and empathy. Intimacy is a term that is laced with positive and nurturing qualities and suggests a decoupling of the reality that forms its basis-namely the trials, as well as tribulations that are part of what makes a shared moment or time intimate. It is not reliant on the projection of only positive outcomes. Real intimacy suggests the banality of the daily and the squabbles and difficulties associated with two competing identities searching for common ground and common pursuit. Intimacy is more. Intimacy is an aggregate of positions positive, neutral, and negative.
We often fail to acknowledge that tenderness and positivity are related to the conditions of their opposites. The arguments, the dismissive behavior, the rejection, even on a minute level develop into the antithesis of our thinking about the concept of positive intimacy. It is possible that in assessing relationships, cohabitation, and dependencies, that we form a shell around our safe perception of these conditions in an expectation of emotional management. What intimacy is, is what it is not. In the coarse record of intimate photography, Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency is probably the poster child for the argument that I am willfully trying to convey regarding this dynamic in which intimacy becomes more than its physicality, sexual aims, and base positivity.
In thinking through the act of photographing intimacy with a partner, it is always important to associate the reality of outcome with the reality of personal perception that an audience has to the term of intimacy as it is a very difficult condition to survey and it is even harder to relate t due to its sequestered condition based on two (or sometimes more) individuals whose relationships, though possibly relative in scope do not give adequate form to the realities of the lived experience. Photography is a great tool for considering intimacy, but it fails at every chance to resolve the atmosphere and deep connective tissue, and disconnection that make their way into the photographs themselves. In the case of the photobook, certain employ can be used to help facilitate a more direct transaction between the feelings conveyed by the parties within and also the viewer.
In the case of Dinaya Waeyaert and her girlfriend Paola, the employ of post-it notes, scribblings on serviettes, and a heap of fragmented writings to one another in the thick of a passionate relationship posit a successful strategy for conveying the atmosphere of their intimate moments, both tumultuous and endearing. The book itself uses these devices cleverly to add an aura to the work that feels tangible, the writings are laid into the book and remind the viewer, assuming some successful consequence of companionship on their part, of a window into something familiar. The passive-aggressive layering of notes in both apologia and love is a sympathetic conduit for the viewer that elects the outlined familiarity by way of touch and potential surrogate memory based on a charged objecthood of the material found within. In unfolding the serviettes, I am reminded of former relationships, of the non-confrontational tenderness of the notes and I feel sympathy to Dinaya and Paoloa’s world even if held at a personal distance by my inability to understand or exact a position within.
Come Closer is a strong book that considers the two youthful lovers and their impassioned time together. I could discuss further the female or queer gaze found within and the desire that radiates outward across bodies and across vistas and habitats, but I don’t feel that is necessarily the aim of the book and I do not feel it is my place to discuss the fabric of those particulars from my position. The aim of the book is in the personal relationship conveyed, one that is held open and bare, a product of gazing on the topic of intimacy and making that motif relational in the real. It is youthful and disrobed, naked and honest. Though I am sometimes compelled to read or enjoy books like this with a hesitancy regarding oversharing, I think in the case of Waeyaert’s work with its emphasis on the neutral and sometimes difficult value of the discriminatory elements of unease, infighting, etc that occur in normal relationships and her own, that I am happy to give her book credit where credit be due.
Come Closer is one of the sleepers of the year thus far as it has made few of the end of year lists that are beginning to come out at the present moment and I think that is unfair. It is a brilliantly designed book that speaks in large measure of a universal condition of coupling in the contemporary moment and it is handled well and with its topic reaching audiences that lie adjacent to necessarily being fundamentally equipped to understand the particulars of queer relationships. I would like to extend a debt of gratitude for dienacht handling the book in a sensitive and exciting manner with the artist and for publishing a title that evades some of their usual focus on the topic of desire and erotically-charged books. Whereas this book does not evade the erotic, nor need it do so, the work is greatly amplified by the understanding that what lies in the fundament of its presentation is a range of intimacy with all of its trauma, tragedy, and flaws held in equal accordance to its blisteringly hot and positive innuendos. Recommended.