When all that remains from a relationship is the dingy t-shirt, what happens to the memories, the stories and the sentiment? This is what photographer Carla Richmond and writer Hanne Steen manage to uncover in their collaborative portrait and written word series Lovers Shirts. Photographed wearing their ex-lover’s clothing, the subjects are nameless and their stories are anonymous.
Captured at a time of utmost vulnerability, the portraits show the subjects in a reflective state. Richmond and Steen are not passive observers in the photographic process. Instead, they have a conversation with their subjects by asking a series of memory-provoking questions and documenting their reactions. Their stories are recorded as anonymous statements and strung together as unending poems. What exactly the shirt inspires in those who wear it may be personal, but the photos manage to draw out the unifying qualities of a common human experience – love, or a love lost.
It feels like a flag I can’t stop flying. It comforts me in the meantime between the spaces. It’s just a rag I turned into a promise that he would never leave. Some sort of common thread between us. Part of me wants to rip it off. So many what-ifs and could’ve-beens and should’ve-beens and never-weres. It’s just a shirt. It’s been there for me when people haven’t. It makes me feel childish and taken care of. It makes me look a little stronger than I am. As long as I hold onto the shirt she is never completely out of my life. I’d wear it every day if I could. As much as you build a house around it or put a ring on it it’s all still temporary and dissolving so all you can do is love it. Even if it’s painful we need to hold onto something. Proof that we did it. That we went through it. That we learned something. That our hearts were broken. That we were loved. That we weren’t loved enough. For someone I won’t be something that will be so easily shed.