The Vulnerability of US

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Published 2021 on ISSUU Copyright © Bethany Kimber 2021 USW Critical Catalogue 2021 First Published Cardiff, United Kingdom 2021 Paperback Edition 1

CONTENTS Preface: 6 chapter I: 7 chapter II: 16 chapter III: 29

A brief history of romance How technological advances have changed dating

chapter IV: 45

How romance and dating can affect our mental health

Final thoughts: 54 Bibliography: 55

Rejection and heartbreak


“It is better to love wisely, no doubt: but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.”

– William Makepeace Thackeray 2


For my friends and family and those who want to reignite romance in their lives


Intimacy of the Heart Laura Makabresku 2020


PREFACE Let me set the scene for you: you’re nine years old playing outside when you set your eyes on your next door neighbour; a beautiful girl about your age. You instantly know she’s the one. The likelihood of it working out at such a young age is slim but you’re willing to take the chance. Fast forward 70 years and you’re married and spent a long and wonderful life together. You make her breakfast each morning and the romance is still very much alive. This is the story of Thomas and Irene Howard. 60% of couples that marry between the ages of 20-25 end up getting a divorce in our modern age and it is a sight for sore eyes. Alongside this, the use of dating apps has skyrocketed. The availability of communication creates new paths to people outside our local area, giving us access to love around the world. Stories like the Howard’s are heard of less and less in new generations. Why is this, you ask? Well, this catalogue will take you on a journey of the highs and lows of modern romance. During this journey you will experience a variety of artists from across the centuries that depict timely themes of love and romance. How romance has changed is an important concept to understand in order to regain it. Living as a hopeless romantic in the time of the lowest marriage rates is rather dis-heartening. However with this collection of images it is up to us to decide whether romance is really dead or whether it is laying dormant to be re-discovered once again. I will be taking you through the ages of the golden age of romance in the 17th century to modern day depictions of romance, looking at artists from Robert Frank to Arvida Bystrom. So buckle up, as I believe you’re in for a bit of a ride. 6

CHAPTER I A brief history of romance Romantic love did not flourish until the nineteenth century. Before this time love was purely transactional. One did not marry another without seeking the benefits of your partner’s family for your own. Furthermore, the relationship was soldered together by your elders, not yourself. Women often were married off to men of a higher class to bring prestige and wealth to her family, or form an alliance for power. Romance, in essence, had not been discovered in its purest form as of yet. As you can see from the paintings the couples are not posed to be intimate. Paintings were created for people of wealth to show prestige. However the couples themselves do not represent lovers in the same way as they are today. The males in these paintings are not touching their wives, rather they are signalling an interest with other objects within the painting. That is not to say there were not any sort of romantics happening between couples. 7

Madame de Pompadour & Marquis de Marigny Alexander Roslin 1754

However these gestures were meant to follow set rules and regularities. For example: women must care for their spouse, exacerbating in modesty. Whereas it was the man’s duty to be chivalrous and bold. This is seen through the neoclassical art movement. During these historical romances, gifts, physical or not, were expected of both parties during the courtship. “Gold was considered the vanquisher of women” – History Extra (2020). However, other gifts such as a lock of hair were considered romantic also. In our modern era if a partner were to give a lock of hair to their significant other, one would potentially consider them psychotic. It is not something we now deem as an appropriate token of love in a first introduction, rather something along the lines of obsessive and crazy. 8

Family of Konrad Goschl in a Neoclassical Interior Clemens Della Croce 1816

These themes of gifts and or gestures duly changed in the 1800s. The dawn of the golden era of romance. No longer were suitors expected to find romantic love through their parents wishes. Freedom was theirs. This era spawned the influences of poetry, classical plays and modern day film culture. Partners would find each other naturally and wholly without the pressures of following through a marriage of their parents choosing. It was the time of ferocious romance. And it was beautiful. Classic writers such as the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens draw on this golden era of romance. The eloquent stories that these writers blessed the world with, shone light of the perils and freedom that came with 9

unconfined romance. You could argue that earlier writers such as Jane Austen paved the pathways for this change in romance and love. Her work captivated the free flowing romances that were less likely to happen in her period of time of the Regency era. Perhaps the change in courtships took influence from writers such as Austen.

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

However within these bright and courageous depictions of romance, still parts of the public were restricted to find their lovers. Only recently have the barriers begun to be broken down. Homosexual and mixed-racial couples have only been able to be openly vocal about their romances in the late 20th century. And even still in our modern era there is still a battle to tear these walls completely down so everyone is accepted and represented in wider society. For example, only until recently have images from the 1800s come to light that capture homosexual relationships. These portaits highlight that although homosexuality was (wrongfully) punishable by death up untill 1967, 10 years after the Wolfenden reports were initially released (recommending that ‘homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should be no longer a criminal offence’) that couples still found ways to be together. A wrongfully forbidden romance of their time depicts the very essence of the romantic modern classics found in literature from these times of LGBTQ. Even if they were not represented, their voice is strong now as we see them standing proud with their partners in these powerful portraits.



“McInturff, Steve Book, Delaware O.” 1880

The images portray an intimacy that was not socially accepted at the time. The men in these images look comfortable in their positions as if the photographer was part of their group and therefore was not seen as intrusive as seen in the dance scene. However in the image with the two gentlemen, where one is sat on the others lap, neither of them are looking at the camera. Perhaps this is because they are aware of the social constraints of that time and felt timid or insecure about their photograph being taken. However, you can still witness the love they have for one another. The man to the right is looking at their partner and they are holding hands. Although seeming camera shy, the image is very powerful given the context of history.

Unknown. 1900.




Cowboy Dance ‘Stag’. October 1910. US.


CHAPTER II How technological advances have changed dating Up until recently did I find myself almost constantly swiping left or right, trying to find myself a man that would, perhaps: A– match with me; B– find me attractive enough to go on a first date; C– would like to form a relationship after a while. Only after many failed attempts and countless downloading and uninstalling numerous dating apps did I think “how long has online dating been around?”. Well, unlike the online dating you or I know, dating profiles have been about for around 300 years. Soon after commercial print was invented arose the era of ‘the lonely hearts’. We as humans have a romatic drive to find a mate, different to that of a sexual drive in which somone only seeks out a partner to fulfil their need for sex. “Lust, the craving for sexual gratification emerged to motivate our ancestors to seek sexual union with almost any partner. Romantic love, the elation and obsession of “being in love” enabled them to focus their courtship attentions on a single individual at a time, thereby conserving precious mating time and energy.” Fisher. H. 2004. Pg.xiv. 16

By creating these lonely hearts columns an individual can seek out other single individuals in a quicker and more concise way, saving time from pointless blind dates that eventually lead to nothing. Or one would hope so. As technology evolved, so did our ways of finding love. The invention of the video tape birthed the felicitous, now hilarious, dating profiles of “video dating”. The videos consisted of a profile much like what popular dating sites include now; what the person is after, what they are interested in, what their turn off is etc. However this was all compiled onto a video tape. Not much has been found to say when or how the videos were made, other than they were discovered as found footage from the 1980s. The most believable answer was explained in the following statement; “Before there were dating sites, there were dating services. What many of them did was have the members record a video introducing themselves... In order to view the videos people would go into the service’s building. The staff would typically give people a bunch of videos to look at that they had pre-screened for common interests, much like dating sites do now but it was done by people rather than computer” Mulshine. M. Businesinsider via Reddit After the invention of the internet, online dating sites like the ones I found myself using boomed. As of 2017 15 million singles were signed up to online dating sites. Is this a good thing? Many argue for and against finding relationships online, but the growing use of it is inevitable with our world becoming increasingly more online. Although the usage of dating sites makes it easier to form a relationship with someone outside your local area, and there is an increasing ease of communication when there are mobile apps, I wonder: is the representation of romance declining in young adults and are we losing touch with old time romance?



Stepping away from statistics and theories we can look at photographs and artists from the last 100 years to see how the creative world had portrayed the movement of romance and technology. Only from the 1900s were public displays of affection seen as a lesser taboo act than in years before. This was because affectionate gestures between couples that were not married would harm the woman’s reputation. “Public displays of affection became more acceptable in the West in the 20th century, aided by early Hollywood” Thorpe. J.A. 2018. Hence forth, early visual documentation of public romances are scarce. Early public displays of affection (PDA) are considered as part of the feminism movement. As stated, up until the 20th century PDA was considered taboo, this was because women were not expected to be romantically involved with a partner until marriage. If they were found to be, then this would have affected not only theirs, but also their family’s reputation in society. Therefore, expressing affection towards a partner outside of marriage was seen as a defiance of society’s forced expectations and rules upon women. The classic romantic images one might bring to mind, I regret to inform you, are usually staged. Robert Doisneau, the well known photojournalist of the mid 20th century captured one of the most timeless and romantic photographs of a couple embracing and sharing a kiss in Paris, 1950.


The photograph Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville) (Left) captured a beautifully loving moment that viewers often regard as being one of the most romantic photographs in history. However it is, in fact, a fake romance. This is a common theme in early romantic photographs. Although the image portrays an extremely romantic scene, it has been made up by strangers. Although the portrayed meaning may stay the same, it is not a candid moment. In a way, in my opinion, this develops a feeling of disappointment. As one may look at these times as an aspiration to reach to for relationships, however the documentation of them (in this instance) is not a real life moment. It makes you question what portrayals in old romantic photographs that we hold dear are actually real? Take Alfred Eisensteadt’s V-J Day Kiss (Right) as another example. taken after World War II the image narrates a romantic exchange of a sailor and a woman in the street of Times Square 1945. Another one of the world’s most romantic photographs was also hiding a secret. The subjects captured in the photograph were strangers. Many have speculated over who the two may be in the famous photograph, but it goes to show– acts of romance can also be deceiving and photographs may be misleading in their narrative. Something that is still evident and easily accessible in our modern era.


A parallel to these images are a series by Marie Hyld. Her series “Lifeconstruction” (Date unknown) portrays a series of constructed portraits of herself and other ‘participants’ in romantic situations. These images narrate romance between couples, however they are completely staged. The willing participants in the photographs were asked to partake in her photography to express the falseness photos can portray in regard to romance and relationships. Hyld found her participants through online dating sites. Placed in the bottom left of the images are how many minutes it took for the photograph to be taken.

“The observance, trembling, shaking, laughter - the interaction between me and the participants all felt very real to me. But the fact is, that I do not know any of the participants. At all. I don’t know anything about their past, future, dreams or present hurdles and struggles.” – Hyld. M. Her work highlights the false reality some of us live in when trying to search for a partner. Although it may be exciting to meet someone new, it is very easy to portray a loving romance when there is, infact, no substance behind the images. With the emergence of technology and the growing ease of communication and online dating it is often easy to get wrapped up in another’s online persona and lose track of the real world. “It is easy to see how overuse of computer mediated technology (CMT) could exacerbate both partners’ attachment insecurity...Confusion rather than clarity is often the reported experience of online communications” Klein. M. (2013). Loneliness can heighten our apprehension online to find a partner. Therefore confusion over the first physical connections can be due to the fact that we may rely on the false portrayal of oneself online to find a partner quickly. 21

Lifeconstruction Marie Hyld


Rather than looking at someone for who they are, many adolescents find themselves holding whether their love interest replies quicker as a higher priority. A study found, with one particular example of a female talking about her ex partner, that she “usually omitted the message’s content and focused solely on the response rate itself, which if prompt meant there was hope, and if slow signaled his lack of interest”. Furthermore, “The level of interactivity for distinct modes of CMT also conveys conscious and unconscious meanings in relationships”. Klein. M. 2013.

Lifeconstruction Marie Hyld


“If we don’t remind ourselves that social media is a false projection of a life, we might end up finding ourselves lonely, isolated and thirsting for a deeper connection”

-Hyld. M 24





CHAPTER III How romance and dating affects our mental health The next artist that has eloquently captured the melancholy of online dating (or the use of social media in general) is Arvida Bystrom. The Swedish contemporary photographer captures the raw energy of her take on sexuality and feminism. The risque subjects in her imagery narrates an adolescent view on romance and independence in the modern era. Bystrom’s series “Alone Online” (2014) portrays the desperation of searching for interaction online. Bright pinks convey a bold expectation of romance, whilst the empty background signifies a lack of fulfillment. These eerily relatable images connect to the young adults of today that may struggle to find romance through technology which should, hypothetically, make communication easier. Or does it? 29

Alone Online Arvida Bystrom (2014)






“ With a focus on appearance and social comparisons, individuals can become overly sensitised to how they look and appear to others and ultimately begin to believe that they fall short of what is expected of them in terms of appearance and attractiveness.� 35

–Trent Petrie (2016)


The increase of online dating proves that dating apps have taken the romantic world by storm. 8.10 million people came into the non-paying category of users for dating apps in 2019. Compared with that in 2017 with 6.83 million in the United Kingdom shows a dramatic increase over the years ( With our dating lives becoming more internet based you must ask yourself, is this a positive change? As stated previously, studies have shown that although communication may be more readily available, online dating has proven to increase anxiety levels in many of its users.

“There is consistent evidence for low self-esteem (Kim & Davis, 2002), low social support, and introversion being associated with problematic heavy Internet use.” Klein. M. 2013. With the ease of finding a romantic partner online you would think that we would feel better about it. But much of the data proves otherwise. Many online dating apps use a swiping technique as sorting through profiles to find a “match”. However this system is fundamentally shallow. Taking two seconds to determine whether a partner meets your criteria off a selection of photographs –images that show their online persona rather than their true self– can be soul destroying if you do not receive many “matches”. These apps portray love as a game. An unhealthy analogy for something that is evolutionarily fundamental to the survival of humankind (Fisher. H. 2004). A study found that

“Regardless of gender, Tinder users reported less psychosocial well-being and more indicators of body dissatisfaction than non-users” Strubel. J. 2016. Brystrom’s images perfectly depict the void people may feel when using these apps. This is not to say that romances are not real in the modern world. 37

On the other hand, Laura Makabresku’s images capture the gentle intimacies between her and her partner. It is easy to get distracted and disheartened by the statistics of love today. However we need to focus on the little intimacies that we often miss. With the online world taking away our physical contact with each other it is important to appreciate the small things between us and our partners. Makabresku beautifully captures this concept in her work. Makabresku creates a baroque style in her series “Intimacies of the Heart� (2020) which adds a theatrical dramatic aesthetic to the series.

Intimacy of the Heart Laura Makabresku 2020





Unlike painted portraits of the baroque era in the 17th century, Makabresku portrays the vulnerability and beauty of intimacy between her and her partner. This contemporary take on a traditional style of art creates timeless portraits that showcase the importance of not taking the gentle intimacies for granted. Especially with our world moving more online each day it is crucial to not forget about the physical connections we have with others. Her series “Paradise Lost� (2019) and many others highlight this further by capturing skin on skin contact between herself and her partner in nude portraits. Some may argue that this puts the viewer in a voyeuristic position, however I would counter-argue that the nudity in the images do not portray themes of sexuality. The series portrays the concept of caring for one another in our most vulnerable states. Furthermore, I believe that as a generation we have developed a sense of pride with our online personas so that we are scared of being vulnerable.

Paradise Lost Laura Makabresku 2019


“ You don’t love anyone? Of course you don’t, darling. You don’t have the balls for it. To love, you need courage.”

–Money Heist (2017)


“Many students come to rely on frequent, timely responses from romantic partners, family, and friends to reassure themselves about these ties and manage painful worries about rejection.� – Klein. M. (2013)


CHAPTER IV Rejection and heartbreak The quotes on the preceeding pages suggest how we may have an unhealthy relationship with our romantic side. A study by Helen Fisher (2004) “Why We Love” found that the area of the brain responsible for our feelings of love also emerges in the same region where addiction can develop. People who feel ‘in love’ with another human have lower serotonin levels in the brain, similar to that of people who suffer with OCD. This creates obsessive thinking about that person (pg. 54) This paired with Klein’s study of university students suggests that the easy access to technology and online communication can heighten our anxiety and obsessive thinking about a partner and/or love interests as it is so easy for us to communicate. The theory of technology putting our minds at ease due to availability of information can be countered with the hypothesis that it can generate unhealthy mindsets when on the search for love. Whilst we want to break down our barriers to get close to someone we also fear rejection and therefore keep our guards up. This in itself generates a paradox. 45

“We are designed to suffer when love fails” Fisher. H. 2004. (pg. 173). The brain has evolved to have a safety net to stop us making bad decisions after experiencing rejection and despair: Depression. This comes into place to conserve our energy that would otherwise be spent on pursuing an ex-lover. “Mildly depressed people make clearer assessments of themselves and others” Fisher. H. (2004). (pg.172) thus saving us from making the same mistakes with similar partners. It also developed to help our ancestors gain support from friends and family rather than waste crucial energy stressing. This evolution means that once out of the depressive episode after a break up, we are more likely to pursue a more suitable partner and contribute more to society and their new relationship (pg.171).

Another November Laura Stevens 2014






Laura Stevens series “Another November” (2014) captures the harsh reality of heartbreak. Her bleak and muted portraits of women in somber scenes depict the many stages of post-breakup despair. Their eyes are longing for the future however their bodies are tense and rigid signifying the stress one goes through after rejection. Our brains experience the same motions as drug-withdrawal after a break up - as stated earlier. We feel common withdrawal symptoms similar to that of opioid addicts. Stevens’ photographs capture a situation many of us can relate to. It is this relation that causes us to empathise with others experiencing a rocky, or an ending, relationship. Her images closely relate to those in Bystrom’s series “Alone Online” as they both mimic the hopelessness we may feel finding or leaving a relationship. Rejection is seen too easily and frequently in our modern society as “ghosting” is a common occurrence on dating sites. It leaves us heart broken with no closure as to why we were not good enough to keep the other person interested. The attachment anxieties of online dating - discussed earlier - may stem from this fear of “ghosting”. It is easy to detach ourselves from someone online by feeling that they are not ‘real’ as you do not physically see them. This is why it is important to include Steven’s work as it highlights the abandonment despair people experience after rejection and/or a break up.


“As a woman dwells on the dead relationship, she feeds a ghost – often inadvertently retraumatizing herself” Fisher . H. 2004. (pg.169). Another November Laura Stevens 2014



FINAL THOUGHTS Stories like the Howards’ are inspiring to those that have lost faith in modern romances. Our lives are run online and it is often that we forget to live in the real world. We can’t go through life without feeling a romantic drive of one sort or another. It is ancestral. It is natural. For all the highs and lows that we experience with modern dating, we will always fall off our horse and get back on it. Love is inevitable and the way we find romance will always change. What is important is to follow a path which is right for you. Don’t let the anxieties of online dating control you. Ask yourself: Why am I feeling this way? Why am I letting myself feel this way? And, how can I overcome this? And then I believe you will find more romantic strength than you did before. The artists you have witnesses in this catalogue narrate a romantic journey to appreciate what we have and what we can strive towards to regain a romantic life which is best for ourselves. To love is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to have courage. 54

BIBLIOGRAPHY Austen, J. (2016). Pride and Prejudice. United Kingdom: Pan Macmillan. Berger, J. (2008), Ways of Seeing, London: Penguin Classics Beauman. F. 2011. Daily Mail. Gentleman seeks lady of soft lips and full bosom... From the hilarious, the heartbreaking, the surprising history of lonely hearts ads DA: 18/12/20 Bearne. S. 2018. BBC. Are ‘swipe left’ dating apps bad for our mental health?. https:// DA: 26/12/2020 Berman. R. 2020. Medical News Today. Social anxiety, depression, and dating app use: What is the link?. Cullen. N. 2020. Find My Past. History’s funniest lonely hearts ads reveal how our ancestors looked for love. Dryden. S. Date Unknown. British Library. A short history of LGBT rights in the UK DA:18/12/20 Fisher, H. 2005. Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. United States: Henry Holt and Company. Grosz, S. 2014. The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves. United Kingdom: W. W. Norton. Klein, M. 2013. ‘Love in the Time of Facebook: How Technology Now Shapes Romantic Attachments in College Students’, Journal of College Student Psychotherapy. Pease, A., Pease, B. 2016. The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others’ Attitudes by Their Gestures. United Kingdom: Orion. Pina. A. 2017. Atresmedia. Vancouver Media. Money Heist. Netflix. Poirier. A. 2017. BBC. One of history’s most romantic photographs was staged.


love DA: 13/01/21 Sontag, S. (2005), On Photography, London: Penguin Modern Classics Statista. Online dating. united-kingdom. DA: 20/11/2020 Stone. M. 2020. The Guardian.. ‘Not married but willing to be!’: men in love from the 1850s – in pictures. men-in-love-from-the-1850s-nini-treadwell-in-pictures#img-8 Thorpe . JR. 2018. Bustle. How PDA Was A Historical Act Of Feminist Resistance — And Still Is Today. DA:13/01/21 Tingle. R. 2017. Daily Mail. Adorable couple spend their 86th Valentine’s Day together after falling in love as next door neighbours. article-4223574/Adorable-couple-spend-86th-Valentine-s-Day-together.html Unknown. 2020. History Extra. How has dating changed over time? A brief history of courtship. Unknown. 2017. Maturity Dating.Increased Online Dating Use – The Stats. https:// Unknown. 2016. UNT News. Men have highest risk for low self-esteem while using Tinder, UNT study finds. DA: 4/01/21 Thackeray, W. M. (1850). The History of Pendennis, His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy. Germany: Baudry’s European Library ; Galignani. pg.62


Bethany Kimber is a practicing photographer based in Cardiff, Wales United Kingdom. She focuses her work on the psychology and concepts behind a range of ideas, subjects that greatly captivate her attention. The inspiration for this catalogue came from her own and her peer’s experiences with dating as young adults. ‘The Vulnerability of Us’ is part of an artistic series she worked on in 2021. Find her work on Instagram. “Thank you to all that inspired and supported me with this project. I hope to uncover the intimacy of romance in younger generations, as I believe this is slowy fading away with the increasing use of technology. I hope this catalogue highlights the issues I am working with for the physical project and connects with my viewers.” Bethany Kimber

During this journey you will experience a variety of artists from across the centuries that depict timely themes of love and romance. How romance has changed is an important concept to understand in order to regain it.

To love is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to have courage.