"At National Geographic, we know that love takes many forms. Passion for the planet, lust for learning, natural instincts, and good old-fashioned romance—we celebrate them all."
"Each Valentine’s Day I ask photographers to share one of their photographs that they feel captures love. And every year I am rewarded with powerful examples of how love can be seen and felt in a still image. This Valentine’s Day seven National Geographic photographers shared images of love in its many forms—familial love, romantic love, companionship, and love in the face of hatred. These images and their stories show that love can be found anywhere—from the most conflict-ridden places on Earth to the warmth and safety of a bed in the smallest of towns—captured in a single frame."
Jessie Wender, senior photo editor
Romantic relationships between Israelis and Palestinians are taboo, dangerous, and rare. I began filming Sami, a West Bank Palestinian, and Lior, an Israeli-Yeminite Jew, while working on a broader project on Israeli-Palestinian love stories, with fellow photographer/filmmaker Ed Ou. They live with their six children in a one-bedroom apartment that Sammy built. Late at night, once the children have fallen asleep, the couple stays up talking and watching movies. Then, before falling asleep, Lior switches to a channel that broadcasts Muslim prayers. This is to protect her children and husband as they sleep. In the morning, before the rest of the family wakes up, Lior reads Jewish prayers, also to protect them. “Islam and Judaism—the Quran and the Torah—are basically the same thing,” she says. “In our house we have both the Quran and the Torah. Both of these books were given by God.”
Time passes so quickly. I can’t remember the exact date I took this picture, but I know that I should. It was taken at the home of my grandmother in Arizona, and it was one of the last photographs I took of her before she died. She was already well into her 90s, and I knew the photographs I took during that time would be my final memories of her—how she looked, what she wore, the light that emanated from her.
I watched her when she sat in her room and listened to the radio, when she would pick weeds in the garden outside, and at the kitchen table where she played solitaire.
This image was made after she had finished gardening in the early evening. The ambient light was almost gone but she still seemed to glow, her hands in particular. In one single moment her hands seem to reveal to me an entire lifetime of memories that were the sum of her whole life, the lives before her, and those to come. I saw my father, myself, and my child yet to be born. She gave me all the emotions one can have in a lifetime, originating and culminating in love.
“D” and “O,” from Saint Petersburg, Russia, were beaten because they dared to walk hand in hand down a street near their home. “After the attack, I felt even more strongly how dear D is to me and how scary the thought that I could lose her,” O wrote. “The worst thing that I felt was an absolute inability to protect the one I loved—or even myself. Yes, now I look back on the street and look at every passing male as a possible source of danger. But every time, now, when I’m in the street, when I take her by the hand, I do it consciously, it is my choice. ‘D, hold my hand, this is my reward for your courage.’”
Meeting D and O and hearing their story touched me deeply. Like many other stories for my project “Where Love Is Illegal,” harrowing accounts often ended with beautiful illustrations of the strength of love and the power of choosing.
Four weeks ago, on a beautiful summer’s day on the shore of a lake in New Zealand, I reached out my hand to my bride and read to her my wedding vows, the origin of which only she knew: “Aude, take my hand as a sign of my commitment to return the love you have shown me, to support you as you’ve supported me—through sickness and health, wealth and poverty, doubt and success, I choose you.”
"Make love not war." A beautiful proposal of love to oppose war, as an opposite of war, as a solution that may heal and prevent war. But sometimes love seems to cause conflict as much as it prevents it—each side has their loved ones and they fight for their own, their beliefs, their tribe and country. Terrible things may then happen because of this love: People may be killed, lives may be ruined, populations displaced and communities destroyed. But still it seems war cannot destroy love.
This woman was raped during one of the myriad conflicts inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where conflicts of ever changing names and causes have and continue to affect tens of millions of people. Rape is an act of violence, an opposite of love, a weapon of war. But if war cannot ultimately destroy love, then neither can rape.
After photographing many rape victims in Congo over the past several years, I’ve often asked if their idea of love is then changed. Do they understand it as well, in the same way, or does love become something foreign to them? Something not as pure? Or does love begin to mean something much more, something more precious, more necessary and life sustaining?"
Michael Christopher Brown
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