Oh, to see without my eyes,
the first time that you kissed me.
When I was on contract in Japan, I met the most intriguing individual - I was instantly drawn to him. Fast forward to about two years later, and our lives intersected again while he was on a small hiatus between jobs. What was supposed to be a simple weekend hangout, quickly turned into a whirlwind 10-day “love at first sight” moment that ultimately led to us getting married many years later.
The reason I bring up my own love story is because I remember the feelings of love wrecking me during that ten day period (and for several months and years after). It provided me with levels of anxiety I had never before experienced during the agonizing feelings of being instantly in love, wondering if he felt the same way I did. Nothing elates and confuses your heart and mind the way love at first sight does. And then, of course, nothing wrecks your heart and mind as much as the goodbye moment does after.
Last Christmas season, James and I had heard about a film that premiered at Sundance which was receiving some serious Oscar buzz entitled, “Call Me By Your Name”, directed by Luca Guadagnino, and starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. We went to our local Indie movie theatre for a date night not knowing what to expect from the film, and left completely shattered, moved, wiping away tears, and processing all the same emotions in the film that we had felt that Summer so many years ago. Needless to say, we returned two days later, and then again.... I believe we saw the film in the theatre four times. If for nothing, it was to relive Michael Stuhlbarg’s supportive Father scene with Timothée Chalamet at the end of the film - instant tears. We were so into it.
First off, the film is set in Italy, during the Summer. And by now you all know how much I love Summer and Italy. Secondly, it takes place in 1983, so the fashion, music, and minor grunge approach were all a part of a recipe to transport the viewer back to a simpler, exciting time. And finally, the way all the characters exist in their pure Summer indulgence is my absolute FULL fantasy. I was obsessed, and I knew I HAD to create a photoshoot inspired by this film.
Part of what spoke to me was that not only is the story so incredibly moving and authentic, but the cinematography is so beautiful. The entire movie was shot on film with a 35mm lens (so that’s a photographer’s dream in and of itself to attempt to recreate - #lookslikefilm). My goal for this photoshoot was to only shoot on a 35mm lens, and then in post to make the images appear like film shot in the 80’s in hopes of evoking that same sense of nostalgia. (SIDENOTE: In full disclosure, it was my first time shooting with a 35mm lens, so I freaked out a bit and went back to my trusty 50mm lens. Eventually, I eased away from my 50mm, and went back to the 35mm.)
Elio and Oliver (played by Timothée Chalamet & Armie Hammer, respectively) are two people who fall in love one Summer. Their love was totally unexpected, torturous, beautiful, and heartbreaking in all the best ways possible. However, what I think is most beautiful about this story is that there are no stakes of impending danger aside for a broken heart. No parents or friends were unsupportive, and no threat of death was looming (Brokeback Mountain or Boy Erased, anyone?). It was just a simple love story between two people exploring the trepidatious, exciting feelings of young love; a coming of age memoir, of sorts, from Elio’s point of view of how both his life and Oliver’s life were changed that one Summer. Easy, effortless, romantic….
My hope for this photoshoot was to evoke so many of the same feelings I found in the film. While not a direct copy, of course, I wanted to pay homage to the anxiety and tension of young love, the thrill of that first touch, the comfort of not having to apologize for being in love, and ultimately, the heart break of the goodbye.
Throughout the post, you’ll see a simple narrative of Elio’s and Oliver’s love story, as experienced from Elio’s point of view. Artistic liberties were taken, of course, but the feeling of the story is still very present. The words written are pulled from various sources: the film script by James Ivory, André Aciman’s beautiful, lush novel, and the film soundtrack including songs by Sufjan Stevens.
So, sit back, open up your Spotify or Apple Music, search for “Futile Devices (Doveman Remix)” by Sufjan Stevens, and experience
MYSTERY OF LOVE
4th Street, SANTA ANA CA