20 Mesmerizing Images Explore The Meaning Of Intimacy (NSFW)

Photographers Kate Sweeney and Aaron Tsuru have long been fascinated by the concept of intimacy. "Aaron and I have been collaborating for years and have always discussed in depth different forms of intimacy: how intimacy can be portrayed, the modernity of expressing intimacy, how technology has changed the concept of intimacy," Sweeney tells us. After exploring these ideas in their own work (Sweeney through what she calls "dark, raw, and romantic self-portraits" and Tsuru through lo-fi photography created to challenge norms of sexuality, beauty, and gender), the two decided to invite other artists to meditate on them, as well. Together, they curated "Intimacy," an art show taking place Saturday, August 22 at Brooklyn's Rabbithole Studio that explores what Tsuru calls "intimate and private relationships with people, places, and things."

In their call for artwork, Sweeney and Tsuru encouraged artists to consider modes of intimacy beyond normative romantic-sexual relationships. "In selecting the work, we were looking for pieces that made us feel connected: connected to ourselves, to the artist, to the subject," Sweeney explains. "We develop intimate connections with pets, places, gadgets, toys, hobbies, activities — well, almost anything. What does intimacy look like to you?"

From stunning portraits that examine the relationship of Black and brown bodies with nature to embroideries that are much more graphic than they at first appear, the 20 images from the art show that follow answer that question. Click through to view 13 artists' striking visualizations of intimacy (and if you are in the area, head to this Saturday's show for an in-person glimpse).
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Image: Courtesy Of Naima Green.
"I am often considering the role of nature and intimacy. This image is part of a larger series, 'Jewels from the Hinterland,' that investigates questions of place, belonging, and perceived cultural identity within the African Diaspora." — Naima Green
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Image: Courtesy Of Naima Green.
"There is a dominant narrative that situates brown bodies in green spaces for work, never for leisure. This photograph and the person in it confront those ideas — they are relaxed, comfortable, and familiar with the space." — Naima Green
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Image: Courtesy Of Naima Green.
"My interests lie in creating and providing visual representations of Black and brown people in green spaces because of our love and need for these environments." — Naima Green
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Image: Courtesy Of Yana Toyber.
"The images I'm showing are from my '4 Sale' series, in which my three female colleagues and I photographed each other nude in our personal styles." — Yana Toyber
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Image: Courtesy Of Yana Toyber.
"It was the first time I shot underwater, and I fell in love with it!" — Yana Toyber
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Image: Courtesy Of Yana Toyber.
"To me, intimacy is essentially sharing your most private feelings, thoughts, and actions with others, but most importantly, it has to be personal to you." — Yana Toyber
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Image: Courtesy Of Yana Toyber.
"For example, some people believe something as simple as brushing your teeth is intimate, yet showing off usually-covered body parts is not. It's all very personal, I find." — Yana Toyber
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Image: Courtesy Of Kate Sweeney.
"We have become so intimate with technology and our social media personas that at-home, real, human-to-human intimacy is sometimes clouded by thoughts of hashtags and scrolling images." — Kate Sweeney
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Image: Courtesy Of Kate Sweeney.
"People 'share' their relationships, their sex, in hopes for a certain number of likes. Intimacy can now be viewed and dissected. It's a strange yet fascinating thing." — Kate Sweeney
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Image: Courtesy Of Andrew Janjigian.
"'Intimacy' is a particularly wily idea in the context of nude photography. While being in the presence of someone without clothing would normally imply some level of intimacy, more often than not it is anything but, with our minds instead concerned with geometry, exposure, pose, or some nebulous, distant end result.

"But then — magically — another form of intimacy can arise, one that has nothing at all to do with clothing or the lack thereof, one made concrete only in that end result. One that says: 'Look, here is the momentary overlap of two minds; this is where we touched.'" — Andrew Janjigian
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Image: Courtesy Of Mark Velasquez.
"It has become so easy to relegate intimacy to a sexual by-product, a secondary footnote to a Tinder swipe. With the ever-increasing amount of likes, shares, and other illusions of familiarity through social networking, we as a culture seem more emotionally removed from each other than ever before.

"I see a craving for intimacy in every person I know, even myself: a group to identify with, something to belong to, someone to understand. Intimacy isn't a Relationship Status to be announced to the world or a companion to take to parties. Intimacy is defined by those quiet, perfect, private moments shared by those you feel appreciated by — those brief, unnameable instances where everything fits, no doubts or questions exist, and all seems safe and good.

"These poignant pauses from our hurried, hyperbolic lives don't last forever, and that is what makes them priceless." — Mark Velasquez
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Image: Courtesy of Allan Fredrick.
"This past spring, I was living in Paris when I met an American model, Aiya Campbell, who was traveling through Europe. During our first meeting, we started talking about how we both wanted to do some work that was more than just the usual 'meet-shoot' — something that was deeper and more intimate. So, shortly after that, we arranged to meet up again in Berlin and just spend two days together in an apartment, taking pictures and being in each other's space, so to speak, in an effort to break down the invisible wall that is usually between a model and a photographer.

"The moment that was captured was a private one: a woman just out of the shower, nude and without makeup, mostly lost in her own thoughts. And after the previous days of taking pictures, the self-consciousness that might usually be present during such a moment was stripped away. Because that is what intimacy is to me: stripping away someone's armor that they present against the rest of the world, and them allowing you to see who they really are — even, or maybe especially, when they are vulnerable." — Allan Fredrick
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Image: Courtesy Of Meghan Willis.
"For me, intimacy is a moment, a quiet stillness, where you can just be yourself, alone or with others, and there is a sense of rightness and belonging. Those moments are one of the things I love about creating art with embroidery. Forming the stitches evokes that same stillness in me." — Meghan Willis
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Image: Courtesy Of Heather Marie Scholl.
"For me, intimacy is the ways we allow other people to touch our hearts. The ways we let down our walls and let each other in — the ways we let others nurture our inner corners." — Heather Marie Scholl
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Image: Courtesy Of Heather Marie Scholl.
"My embroideries in this show are my way of addressing sex in this manner. I experience the sex acts we do as not just about touching each other's bodies, but the ways we can grow deep beauty and love through the trust and pleasure of physical contact." — Heather Marie Scholl
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Image: Courtesy Of Grace Bevelheimer.
"I was so excited to have the opportunity to be a part of an exhibition that dealt specifically with intimate subjects. A lot of my work holds references to love, loss, and holding on to intimate memories. Intimacy, to me, is one of the most profound things to be able to depict.

"I like the idea that when a viewer sees these bodies, or hands, or lips touching in an image, it can trigger physical memories of their own. There is this type of delicate beauty to preserving memories that you can almost feel, and that is ultimately what I'm trying to accomplish in my pieces." — Grace Bevelheimer
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Image: Courtesy Of Beryl Fine.
"'Sundays are for Lovers' communicates intimacy through non-traditional symbols of closeness and affection. Rather than personify intimacy through touch or direct interaction, I show two women looking at one another from across the room, only interacting through gaze and body language.

"The distance between them exhibits space and defines their physical differences. One [is] sitting pensively and the other [is] laying down, basking in the sun — despite them being separated by an empty room, they display their bond of intimacy through a simple gaze." — Beryl Fine
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Image: Courtesy of Paul Campbell.
"I sometimes describe my work as searching for a sliver of the soul. I’m looking to see the typically unseen and imprint that moment forever on film. When shooting people as subjects, that necessitates building connections. To me, intimacy has always been about being connected physically, spatially, temporally, emotionally. Without that connection, you’ll never see behind the curtain. Without intimacy, you’ll never even realize the curtain was there." — Paul Campbell
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Image: Courtesy Of Peter Clay Diller.
"In an era of self-acquisition and consumer impressionism, one should never underestimate the rarity of genuine affection." — Peter Clay Diller
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Image: Courtesy Of Aaron Tsuru.
"To me, intimacy is simply learning to let yourself go, to be vulnerable and completely open, or to let someone or something in. I've seen intimacy between people, pets, and even hobbies. For me, it's been that lifelong effort to let people in, to show them who and what I am, without worrying if I'll be rejected or hurt, trying to learn that if I do get hurt, I'll be okay, and the experience of being close is worth that risk. I'm still learning to be intimate." — Aaron Tsuru
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