Photography and Intimacy

Intimacy and the photographic image

Emma Wilson (efw1000 / at /


Home movies, polaroid photos, ultrasound images, video, digital images in social media, have offered a privileged mediation of intimacy, sensuousness, affect in cinema from the modern period forwards as explored in the film work of directors such as Agnès Varda, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Atom Egoyan and in memory projects such as Alina Marazzi’s film of found footage of her mother For One More Hour With You (2002) and Sophie Calle’s video installation Couldn’t Capture Death (2007). In the exposed space within the frame (or in the installation room) embedded, sensitive, personal material apparently yields access to what is more, immediate, emotive, fleshier, messier, than the frame narration, with the illusion of heightened access. Yet, as Lauren Berlant has argued, ‘the inwardness of the intimate is met by a corresponding publicness’. Intimacy is mediated by public discourses, as well as bound up with exposure. For Berlant, ‘“I didn’t think it would turn out this way” is the secret epitaph of intimacy’. The intimate image is a screen for projection, disavowal, distraction. Choreographing memory and emotion, such images give sensory form, animation, affect, to evolving, unexpected stories about oneself and others, about the complex involvement of living feeling in photographic art, about the inextricability of intimacy and the public sphere.

Work in progress

Emma Wilson is writing on sorority, intimacy and scopophilia in the work of Nan Goldin and Jane Campion for a special issue of Paragraph on embodiment. She has written on Goldin ( Her article is part of a larger project on the interface between intimate recording and women’s artistic practice, vicariousness, and the use of living models and muses. She is starting to develop some of these ideas online (