Can A Photographer Truly Capture Love?

In The Ones We Love, more than 80 photographers attempt to show what they see when they look at their loved ones.

Photographers routinely let us see the world through their eyes. Can they also reveal to us the qualities that make them love the people who inspire them? Des Moines-based curator Lindley Warren thinks so, and with her online project, The Ones We Love, she has invited photographers all over the Internet to contribute the one shot that they think captures the essence of the person they love most.


According to Warren, the inspiration for The Ones We Love was her own simple curiosity about the personal lives of some of the photographers she holds in high regard.

Sophie Mörner

“I’ve always been interested in knowing more about the artists I admire and respect,” Warrens tells me. “This project was a way for me to peek into the lives of talented photographers and come to know the people who inspire their art and their love. The ones that we are drawn to say a lot about who we are as individuals.”

With more than 80 photographers who submitted pictures approved so far, The Ones We Love has accumulated a library of intimate shots. And they’re remarkably varied in setting, tone, and composition. Some portraits are of the young, some are old; some are candid, many are posed; some are in black and white, others color. But Warren says that what unites the photos is their fundamental beauty and honesty.

“I’m really not interested in just picking photos where love is represented by everyone smiling and being beautiful and perfect,” she says. “I want people to feel connected to these images, whether that’s because they just lost a family member, broke up with a significant other, or have fallen in love for the first time.”

Julia Krüger

Not all the people we love are people we intimately know. Two series of photographs by Marin Holik and Juan Aballe focus on subjects with whom the photographers have no personal attachments. Even so, the shots feel like a loving gaze, because of the care and intimacy with which they were shot. And because they felt loving, Warren thought they were appropriate to include in the gallery. “Love is wide,” Warren says. “It can be with your lover or a stranger. It can be great or sad. It’s not just all smiles or bliss, but it’s always all around us.”

In addition to being an online gallery, The Ones We Love will be published as a book on August 15. There will also be three exhibitions around that time at the Atelier de Koekkoek in Vienna, the Viaduct Gallery in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Künstler in Brisbane, Australia.