How to Get More Intimacy in Your Photographs

Photography can be a lonely practice. Connecting with the intimacy we have around us is a great way to soothe the feeling of isolation.

Intimacy is a beautiful part of being human. It makes our heart beat faster, our pupils dilate, and fills our brains with endorphins. To have the opportunity to record that is an extremely satisfying thing to do. To connect with intimacy, however, isn’t always straightforward. If we are not open to the process of identifying a human connection, then the tiny moments of connectivity will slip past our eye. For this reason, we must train both our mind and our eye to spot all the amazing moments of human interaction that happen around us.

What Does Intimacy Mean to You?

Intimacy, in its purest form, is the deep connection two or more people have with each other. And the way intimacy is displayed and identified differs from person to person. Some people cringe at the thought of holding hands, while others love nothing more than embracing in a big warm hug. To be able to meaningfully record intimacy, take some time to make a list of the ways you enjoy being intimate. This will help shape how you document moments when shooting.

Personally, I think of the things that make me feel warm and fuzzy; the act of engaging in deep conversion, holding eye connect, and the unique relationship a parent has with their child for example. I get an energy and enthusiasm to record those who embrace in the moments I love to embrace in myself.

Don’t, however, be scared to photograph the types of intimacy that would otherwise make you curl up into a human cringe ball. Challenge yourself, break through your psychological barriers and use photography to bridge the gap between you and your emotional fears. We are able to connect with our deepest, darkest emotional state through the power of the people around us. Your camera is your safety blanket as you delve deep into a world that scares the life out of you.

Go Deeper into the Human Relationship

The photographs you make don’t just have to be fleeting moments; they can be in the form of a long-term project.

Steven Bollman is a photographer based in California who has completed a range of fantastic projects throughout his career. There is one journey he is recording that goes much deeper for it to be merely labelled ‘a project’.  Steven’s Dad has dementia. Over the past four years, his memory has slowly deteriorated and the relationship that once was has developed into something completely new.

Deep, unconditional intimacy is created through a level of trust, understanding, and shared memories. Dementia, in its most destructive stage, sadly strips that all away. A person who once raised you in your family home can mistake you for an intruder who poses a threat to their safety. It is a heartbreaking process for those who witness it, and a terrifying, lonely process for those who experience it.

Bollman has managed to create a new level of intimacy through the power of photography. The photographs he makes and the stories he shares not only connect him and his Dad, but it also connects everyone who views their journey.

Photo by Steven Bollman

Bollman says this about the process…

“Photographing my Dad on his journey with dementia has been by turns difficult emotionally, and easy in terms of access. He is a very willing subject and has always been supportive of my work. Having been his primary caregiver through his first 3 years of his diagnosis has presented numerous parent/child role reversals.”

During one of their many conversations, his Dad speaks openly and says…

I feel like I just met myself and I’m getting to know myself.”

This photographic story should be a source of motivation; a way for you to think about the relationships you have in your own life. And it should help you look at how your photography can really push the boundaries of your own personal intimate connections.

Don’t be Afraid to Feel

We live in an era where it’s easier than ever before to check out of how we feel. We distract ourselves with social media, YouTube, and fake news stories. But, for a moment, connect with yourself. Connect with how you are feeling and your current emotional state. There is no intimate relationship deeper than the one we have with ourselves.

If you’re happy, depressed, excited, or unmotivated, use it to channel your creativity. The more we connect to our own feelings, the more we can empathize with the feelings of others. Having that level of empathy will help you to create beautiful, intimate photographs.

Emotionally fueled photographs will always have a lasting impact on the viewers’ mind. Not only do they connect with the aesthetic, but they also connect with the feeling. This holds the viewer’s attention longer than just your average snapshot.

Get thinking, get feeling, and get intimate.

Dan Ginn is a UK based street photographer and writer. Learn more about him via his website and Instagram.