Striking Photo Series Explores The Aftermath Of Failed Relationships

In serious relationships as well as casual ones, physical factors play a major role in how we form (and feel) attachments to others. Research shows that the pheromones released in the sweat of a lover send powerful signals to our olfactory systems, which process them subconsciously as physical attraction. Of course, in long-term partnerships, close proximity and frequent physical intimacy mean that we grow connected to the chemical signals released by our lovers; what we identify as someone's "scent" is actually a complex interplay of compounds, only some of which have any odor at all.

A touching photo and written-word series explores what happens when that chemical connection is severed. Entitled Lovers Shirts, the project was conceived by photographer Carla Richmond and writer Hanne Steen to address the physical feelings evoked by an ex-lover's scent — in this case, from wearing his or her shirt. Steen explains, "After my last relationship ended, I missed wearing his shirts, because I missed him — his smell, his arms around me — and I wanted to do a project that looked deeper into this phenomenon, as a way of exploring my own feelings of longing and attachment. Did everyone feel the same way? How do we attach meaning and feeling to a piece of clothing? What sense of security, ownership, identity, and intimacy do our lovers' shirts inspire in us?"

For the ongoing project, the team interviews and shoots subjects looking at themselves in a mirror, wearing the shirts. After asking a series of "provocative questions," the artists take snippets of each individual's thoughts and emotions to create an "unending prose-poem to express the varied and simultaneously universal relationships" of the subjects. So far, Steen and Richmond have interviewed and photographed over 40 people for the project.

Click through for a selection of their images — and head to herclayheart for more.

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Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It feels like a flag I can’t stop flying.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It comforts me in the meantime between the spaces.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It’s just a rag I turned into a promise that he would never leave.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
Some sort of common thread between us.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
Part of me wants to rip it off.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
So many what-ifs and could’ve-beens and should’ve-beens and never-weres.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It’s just a shirt.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It’s been there for me when people haven’t.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It makes me feel childish and taken care of.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
It makes me look a little stronger than I am.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
As long as I hold onto the shirt she is never completely out of my life.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
I’d wear it every day if I could.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
As much as you build a house around it or put a ring on it it’s all still temporary and dissolving so all you can do is love it.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
Even if it’s painful we need to hold onto something.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
Proof that we did it.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
That we went through it.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
That we learned something.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
That our hearts were broken.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
That we were loved.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
That we weren’t loved enough.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.
For someone I won’t be something that will be so easily shed.
Photo: Courtesy Of Carla Richmond/Hanne Steen.