The Greek photographer Penelope Koliopoulou is tired of seeing romantic comedies that end as soon as the main couple gets together. From her yearning for more complex representations of intimacy, she created Self Portraits, a series of staged narratives in which she plays both the male and the female involved in a heterosexual relationship.
Her initial impulse was to explore film stills in a way I imagine would be much like the work of Cindy Sherman, but in the end, she thought portraying two characters would add to the obscured sense of self she associates with love and relationships. The subject of Self Portraits becomes her sense of self; she uncovers the isolation of the self portrait in a totally new way. In these images, she is simultaneously alone and not alone. The couples she dresses as have no real crisis other than that of their daily lives: arguments take place on the toilet, and the bringing of tea is the couple’s momentous return to one another after a night of sleep.
She found makeup and costuming helpful in distinguishing the male and female lovers, but the photographs’ strength lies in the fact that at times it’s hard to tell them apart. She relied mostly on gestural cues to evoke traditional “masculinity” and “femininity.” The couples she portrays are admittedly stereotypical: there’s the urban couple and the rural couple, the couple eating in bed and the pair who prefer the couch. They images are strikingly universal because they’re representations of tropes we can all identify with.
Identity is so crucial in all portraits but especially in these. They can be read as celebrations of the personal growth and refinement we find when we’re in love, or they can read as a mournful homage to being a loner, evoking the fear of codependency and loss. I think they do both. What do you think of the images?
Images via Feature Shoot