For The Makeout Project, photographer Jedediah Johnson dons lipstick and kisses his subjects before snapping their portrait, leaving moist red stains across their mouths. The artist explains the work as a collection of sorts; in the place of stamps or shot glasses, he gathers lips and tongues, tracking and recording the places he visits through the individuals with whom he connected. He captures each image in the moment following the embrace, steadying his partner with a hand not yet removed from his (or her) cheek and neck. Swiftly, he preserves visceral reactions that betray a self-conscious muddle of amusement and longing.
Although each subject is informed of the process beforehand, the work relies on accident and impulse; the kisses may either be restrained or passionate, the lipstick leaving anywhere from a light coating to a bruised, rash-like blur. In this strange and intimate exchange, the person kissed becomes a work of art, painted like canvases with ruddy smudges. The romantic act, normally private, is thrust into the public sphere. Gazing at the subjects from Johnson’s point of view, we are uncomfortably (or thrillingly) implicated in the kiss, becoming an integral party to the affectionate exchange.
On Mondays, Johnson adds new images to his blog, Makeoutville.