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.