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What Does Lasting Love Look Like?
Fashion photographer Jay Marroquin is traveling to 30 different countries to ask 100 couples what love really is.
BY KATE HAKALA
Jay Marroquin is an award winning, Houston-based fashion photographer who is on a mission to photograph what real, enduring love looks like—across genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. His upcoming book, "Romance of the Photograph," will take him to over 30 countries to interview over 100 couples about how they fell in love and how they make it last. Jay agreed to give Nerve a special preview of some of the photos in his book. He will be visiting New York September 3rd-13th. If you know of a couple who has been together for at least two decades and would want to be photographed for the book, please recommend them here.
Couple, Milan, Italy
Jay: This photo was taken in Milan, Italy in 2012. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I found myself in the big Domo (church) plaza. Many couples were walking hand and hand and I found it very romantic. This couple, however, caught my eye and reminded me of my parents. Their close bond was very evident.
Yim & Janet, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysa
Originally they met in the work place. Janet was hired at a company where Yim worked. During her interview process she noticed the same guys kept walking past the office where she was sitting. Talking to Yim later, he said they had no reason, they just wanted to see who the pretty girl in the office was.
Yim gave his daughter, Marilyn, this advice when she got married: “Love can be a convenience, an illusion, we look at love as a now, an instant result. In reality, it’s an action, something you have to constantly work at. The stuff you do at the beginning of a courtship you have to continue doing to keep the romance alive. That and, also, remember what matters most."
Roselyn & Hamdan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Together for 32 years, they met at age 13 when Roselyn and Hamdan were in the same class. Hamdan was incredibly shy and a pretty quiet guy. He never spoke to her once, but after 6 months, they were separated. A riot and big political movement that was going on in Malaysia forced Roselyn to move away. After she moved, Hamdan realized he really missed her and wished he had spoken to her. He asked one of her friends for her mailing address. What transpired was 10 years of writing each other letters and never seeing each other face to face. Nearing the time when Hamdan was finishing his University, he saved up some money and took a trip to her home town. They met 3 times and married later.
Hamdan: “In one of the first letters I wrote to Roselyn, I asked her to send a photo, she said to send one first”.
When asked about all relationships having their ups and downs and how they dealt with it, Roselyn answered: “Sometimes when things get difficult I ask myself, 'Why did I get married in the first place? What is my priority and what is most important to me?' For me, it’s my family and a personal commitment to make the relationship work.”
Hong & Thi, Dinh Van, Vietnam
Together for 48 years, Hong and Thi have an exceptional partnership. Jay notes, "I noticed them waking every morning before 5am to tend the coffee farm they have and would work all day together. Every evening, they would all sit together for dinner and much laughter could be heard.They met while working on a farm. He noticed her as a very beautiful girl and immediately was interested in her. With the town being so small, he would stop by her house after work to say hello. Her parents being very strict, he would only be able to stay for around 5 minutes at a time."
Do you remember the first time you kissed her? “Yes, it was when we got married.”
Really? “Yes, we couldn’t kiss before getting married.”
So, you must have really been looking forward to that date? “Yes, yes I was.” (He grins widely.)
Vietnamese Couple, Xuyen Moc, Vietnam
The cool thing about this couple is how they met later in life. Not as teenagers, not in college, but in their early 40s. They met in a market while she was buying fruit. At an older age, they were both unsure if they would ever find love. They also come from humble beginnings and not a lot of wealth. What they did find was a partner who also wanted the same thing. A family and a partner to share life with. After marrying, they had a child, now 3. Even at that age, hope is not lost.
Are you only photographing couples that have been together for years? Why not young couples?
Jay: Correct, I say 30 but honestly I would probably take a couple that's been together for 20 or 25+ years. While there is nothing wrong with young couples in love, this book is about lessons learned and what it really takes to make relationships last. Getting to a 10 year anniversary is alright, but getting to 25 or 30 and still being in love is A LOT MORE work. And I think these long lasting couples will have more advice for young couples just starting out.
30 countries and 100 couples is a large and diverse undertaking. Do you think you'll discover there is a universality to love that spans languages and cultures?
Jay: You know, I think that's a good question. In a general sense, there will be some commonalities amongst the couples, but as I learned in SE Asia, what we might perceive as "love" might be something different there. For example, I grew up in the West and am of Latin descent. For me, PDA or couples showing their affection (touching, feeling, laughing) in public is very common. Well, this might not be the case everywhere. You might not see that happening, but their love is based on respect and dedication to family. I'm sure it will differ from place to place somewhat.
What does love look like to you?
Jay: Love takes many forms, but I like to think of true love as something when someone truly cares about someone else more than themselves.
All images and interviews courtesy of Jay Marroquin. Some images have been cropped for size.