A funny thing about love is that the closeness to which many of us aspire can sometimes turn into something...unhealthy. Yes, spending your mornings, afternoons, and nights with your "other half" is undeniably sweet. But, where is the line between falling in love and losing yourself?
Photographer Rik Garrett explores territory on both sides of this line in a project fittingly titled Symbiosis. Conceived and executed in the early days of Garrett's relationship with the woman who would become his wife, the project imagines couples as single entities, fused together to eerily beautiful effect. To achieve this, Garrett painted over each analog print with acrylic paint, blurring the boundaries between his subjects.
The project takes inspiration from a number of disparate concepts, each of which could easily be a metaphor for intense, all-consuming love. First, Garrett cites the alchemical process of "solve et coagula" — dissolution and recombination — as a major contributing idea behind the series. As Garrett says, alchemists believed that "materials such as plant or mineral matter could be made stronger by breaking them down to their core components and re-combining them. This is symbolized with the Alchemical imagery of the Rebis, the 'divine androgyne.' Half male and half female, the Rebis represents the perfect being — the balanced genders and the combined strengths of male and female, day and night, gold and silver."
Perhaps an even more apt source of inspiration: the reproductive processes of anglerfish. Garrett explains, "The male, who is much smaller than the female, attaches himself to her body by biting into her. Eventually, his lips adhere to her skin, where their circulatory systems become intertwined. Over time, his organs and eyes atrophy, his body being largely absorbed by that of his mate. Together, they become a complete new being capable of self-fertilization (sometimes referred to as 'conjunction')."
Some level of "conjunction" certainly appears to be happening in Garrett's photo series. He chose to work with prints that are polaroid-sized in order to reflect the intimacy of the relationships depicted. After all, Garrett adds, "This series is about falling in love."