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The One Who Got Away
Think about the people missing from your life, and how you feel about them. What we remember — and what we forget — may reveal more about ourselves than about them. We have photos, letters, souvenirs, and fragments of memory, but our powerful imagination takes over from there: We color in the blanks. And that’s OK. Retouching old loves is a way of understanding what we want. It helps us find our way to new ones.
It’s impossible to know whether the experiences below are about infatuation, true love, lust, or something else entirely. But we can be sure that each of these contributors learned about life and themselves in the process.
Meeting Jackie ∞
We lived across the hallway from one another in the same brownstone apartment building, in the same small Canadian town. I thought she was brilliant. She smoked, and her nearly black hair was cut in a bob like a 1920s movie star. In an attempt to force myself into her life, I pinned a note to her door. It worked. We became friends, and stayed that way, until we grew up and out of our prairie town.
Photographer: Amy Thibodeau
A Canadian currently living and working in London, I am a writer, a photographer and a collector of interesting ideas.
Mystery Becomes Her ∞
Our love of the unknown took us through fifteen states and eight countries, but our playful intimacy made its home in the little-discovered paths, corners, shops, cafes, facades, and vistas of San Francisco. Once, near the top of Clayton Street, I gave her my hat, and for a brief moment she became a detective lurking through the cold night, seeking out mysteries to solve. In reality though, she was the mystery. When she left, it was incomprehensible, like an unsolved crime.
Photographer: Michael Sukharev
Russian-born bay area resident looking for purpose and new adventures. Equal opportunity adventure employer — but ones with hidden treasure are preferred! Apply within.
Burma Beau ∞
Though things didn’t work out for us long term, our time in Asia left me with the fondest memories of life and love. I was standing in line at a bank in Bangkok, absentmindedly humming a BeeGees tune, when a young man next to me started humming the tune with me. He noticed my US passport and asked me where I was from. When I answered “Glenwood Springs, Colorado,” he blinked and said “I live in Glenwood Springs.” We muttered to each other how weird that was, then discovered we were both getting money to book the same flight to Burma six days later. We fell in love during our month-long journey through Asia. Finally, Beau had to leave, and I followed not far behind. Back home, we were practically neighbors, and continued our relationship for almost two years before eventually drifting apart. But we know we were meant to meet — it was as if we had already lived a life together.
Photographer: Linka Odom
I’m an artist, photographer, and sales rep for a fine art printing bureau in Los Angeles. My photographic practice is my therapy, my savior, and my ultimate passion.
Castles in the Air ∞
Imagine studying abroad in a castle in Italy for three months, and falling in love with one of your friends while you were there. Locking eyes at the bar up the hill, sharing a tent in Verona because the hotels are full, hopping a train and heading south to the coast for a week with no itinerary at all, running around Venice in the rain. Imagine coming back home, and love fading back into friendship. Imagine what a disappointment that would be.
Photographer: Emily Threlkeld
I live in Houston, Texas. I will receive my BFA in creative writing in May, and during this year I will eat at 495 local restaurants in honor of my father.
My first long distance relationship was fed on hand-written notes and midnight phone calls. This one subsisted on webcams and bad compression. “When you get here we’re going to ——” The image froze. Snap. I’d been making portraits of her like this for a month, her features all lossy from dropped frames. In a few days I would move to China. It wouldn’t be long before we both moved on. From time to time I gaze back — my memories lossy in their own way — at what was.
Photographer: Schuyler Kelly
I’m a writer and filmmaker on an extended adventure in Shanghai.
In the Wind ∞
We met in New Orleans after Katrina. Working in the disaster zone, life was surreal and visceral and urgent, all the time. We traveled across the country together before he got away, or I did. The peace we found was not sustainable. It comforts me to know he is out there somewhere, mercurial as when we met.
Photographer: Katherine Pangaro
I live and work in Brooklyn, but my mind is in New Orleans.
Krasivaya: “pretty” in Russian. It was never hard to take a good photo of Lidia during our four years together — she smiled often, and she loved the camera. It was much harder to acknowledge that we were on different paths. But I wouldn’t change a thing; we both grew into beautiful beings.
Photographer: Jonah Pauline
I live in Fresno, California.
To the Five Boroughs ∞
The minute I stepped off the bus and into Washington Heights, we were no longer just close friends. We ran down the streets at night, drank wine in the park, took in musicals, and marvelled at museums. The city was alive all around us; I had never been so happy. This magical week turned into months of distance. Things had been easier when we were friends. I chastised myself: I never should have visited, and I never should have gone back. Sometimes you fall in love with a city instead of the person in it.
Photographer: Johanna Fulk
25. Portland. Hi.
Meant To Be ∞
I noticed him sitting across from me in tenth grade English. My knees went weak when he passed me a homework assignment. We started dating soon after that, and I would get the biggest butterflies. But then senior year approached, and I had to pick a college. It came down to a school in Pittsburgh, where we lived, or another one several hours away. I was so afraid I’d choose for the wrong reasons that I broke things off with him. But I could only hold out a few months. We’ve been dating almost four years now even though we’re at different schools. The stresses of a long distance relationship are worth it, because he’s worth it. I could not picture life without him.
Photographer: Brittany Harrington
Brittany Harrington is currently a photography student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
We Found Narnia ∞
Allie and I had been friends for a while, and I had the biggest crush on her ever. I took every opportunity I could to be with her, helping her with her homework or being ready if her other plans fell through. One magical day we spent ten hours exploring the forests around Toronto, finding hidden surprises and photographing them all.
Photographer: Andrew Ly
Andrew is an advertising student in Brampton, Ontario, who spends his time photographing and playing music.
Every time it rains, I think of him. I remember the drizzling day before Christmas break when in a sudden graceful motion he kissed my cheek, and sprinted away. Months passed, the winter ended. He told me he thought I was amazing, that I was unlike any other girl, that I was special but: “It just isn’t going to work anymore.” It rained that day too. Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. We became close friends. We grew up. Four years later, he’s like a brother to me. My love never stopped, it just changed, like we did.
Photographer: Maya Kulkarni
I’m a confused student in Los Angeles trying to understand this game called life.
Sea Change ∞
On our first date, we drove out to the misty Oregon coast. The beach was wide and wet and luminous like glass. Suddenly, with scarcely a warning, she stripped down to nothing and plunged into the freezing Pacific. Emerging, she stood unfazed in the waves, arms akimbo, gazing out to sea. I snapped a photo from back on the beach, proud, sheepish, and awed by this woman I was about to fall madly in love with.
Photographer: Daniel Steinbock
Daniel is a researcher, design educator, and musician in Palo Alto, California.
Staring at the Sun ∞
When we met I knew there was something nice about him that I couldn’t put my finger on. He made me want to smile at inappropriate times, look at things differently, let him feel my love, and feel his love back. This photo almost captures it.
Photographer: Linzi Cason
I am a Blackpool-based photographer working as my local council’s official photographer, though I also have my own business. I have studied to degree level at the local college and have exhibited in New York, London, and my home town.
Above the Clouds ∞
This photo documents the happiest I’ve ever been, but it’s been two years now since we decided to see if we could be happier with other people. That’s the thing about happiness; you never can tell when you’ve reached a peak. You can only compare where you are to where you’ve been. Now all I can think about is two years ago, when I began my descent, and let her float up, away, and out of my life.
Photographer: Zander Coomes
He’s an explorer disguised as a teacher, hiding out in Zhuhai, China until he finds something awesome to do. He normally lives near Minneapolis.
Petite Amie ∞
All you have left are moments, fragments of images swimming in and out of focus: delicate fingers gliding along the piano, wrapping around a cup of steaming tea, pulling back a strand of unruly hair. The sharp ring of wind chimes distracts you momentarily and you look up, straining to feel the breeze. A pitter-patter announces the dog’s clumsy arrival; that dog, the one she called about in the middle of night, the one she cried over, the one she still misses. A thousand walks blur into one and you feel her fingers slide between yours. You squeeze reflexively, but her hand slips away. You remember a line from Junot Díaz: “It’s never the changes we want that change everything.”
Photographer: Jim Levasseur
Jim animates to tell stories, but admits that sometimes a photograph is more convenient. He lives in Chicago.
My friend and I grew up together: went through big losses early, endured school, survived through everything. This is her writing her final essay for law school, in late summer. I used to love this photo because it meant that we made it, at last. Then, after she became a lawyer, she helped my neighbor sue my family. We just got the letter from her, no warning. If I try hard, I understand her point of view. Business is business. As another good friend said: Welcome to adult issues.
Photographer: Arianna Sanesi
33, photographer, currently lives in Milan but about to move.
The Stand In ∞
This isn’t a photograph of her — it’s too soon. This is someone else. I keep the real photos hidden, so I won’t stumble upon them accidentally. But I keep them, because they are my story. I know that one day I’ll start a new story with someone else, a better story, and I’ll be able to revisit these images. When I do, it will heal more than hurt. May that time be soon.
Photographer: Joshua Longbrake
I am a grad student studying at Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. This photograph was taken with a Hasselblad 500C/M and a little whiskey.
Lights Out ∞
He was my best friend, my lover, and my mirror. When I left, I did so because I let my light go out — and because he was my mirror, there was no light left for us. Each subsequent trial of the heart has been a reminder that sometimes the one who gets away is the one who brings you closer to yourself.
Photographer: James Evans
“The only constant is change.” -Heraclitus
Waiting for Her ∞
I met a young man named Ani here in French Polynesia. Ani grew up with a girl named Marutea on a little island paradise called Ua Huka. They’d always loved each other, it seemed, always known they were meant to be together, and one day, start a family. Marutea was a very good student, interested in foreign language and culture. And so when she finished high school, she wanted to go to college in Papeete, on the big island, Tahiti, almost 1000 miles away. Ani had less use for books. His passion was for Ua Huka’s wild horses. He had visited Papeete once, and was afraid of the big city — the crowds, the people, the noise. He couldn’t wait to get home. Marutea has been gone for two years now, and Ani is worried. He saw her last over the summer, and she wasn’t the same woman anymore, though she swore that her love for him hadn’t changed. Today, he’s not sure he made the right decision. What if she meets someone else? Perhaps he should have followed her to the city. He confessed to me that he rides to this vantage point every day, no matter the weather, to watch for boats or planes from the South. To watch for Marutea’s return.
Photographer: Stéphane Heinz
I’m a passionate lomographer living in French Polynesia, on a beautiful island called Raiatea. Living here is a great opportunity to travel all around the Pacific Ocean, and discover different islands and cultures, and meet a lot of interesting people.
Second Chance ∞
We met, he was awesome, and I fell in love. And then ran away. I was a single mom, just divorced, trying to run my own business. Stressed — and not ready to feel that way for someone yet. We split up, but he said he would always think of me. More than a year later, he emailed me out of the blue to say hello, and that every time he heard a Jack Johnson song, he missed me. We met for dinner later that week and have been inseparable ever since. I can’t believe I almost lost the love of my life.
Photographer: Kirsten Thompson
I work for a commercial trucking company in Georgia, and I am a semi-pro photographer trying to build my business. I’m also celebrating two years of marriage to the one who might have gotten away.
Bound by a Turning World ∞
This is a picture of someone hurt by me, and turning away. I took it on the last day of a long trip that was supposed to be a retreat from the labors of our long-distance relationship. Neither of us was willing to admit it, but at this point, we both sensed that this might be our last time together. The night our relationship ended we were 2100 miles apart, and it was my doing. For months, I embodied every soul searching cliché, as I drove aimlessly and often, eventually ending up in a desert very far from home. In the quiet of that desert, my regret was inescapable. I realized I had a choice. I could turn home, or I could go twice as far, to her, in San Francisco. I needed to tell her I was wrong, and that I loved her … It didn’t work. For months I wrote her letters, sent her flowers, and continued to show up unannounced. Eventually, she told me to stop, and I did. Thankfully she has her own story. And for that reason, I’m the guy who gets to be married to the one who got away.
Photographer: Robert Josiah Bingaman
Robert is an artist living in Kansas City, America.
In the Glow of the City ∞
She called me to say that he doesn’t call anymore. His absence overjoyed me, but it killed her. I took what remained of her to the Staten Island Ferry; she had once said it was her favorite thing to do in the city. As the ferry touched ground, and then turned back toward Manhattan, she placed her face against the glass and watched the city approach. For a brief second she turned to me, and her smile returned. When you fall in love with your best friend, and she doesn’t share your feelings, you always wish for something more. But at that moment, I was happy to have back what I’d had all along.
Photographer: Nick Jamison
Nick Jamison is a substitute teacher, marketer, and student of life in Astoria, New York.