Date:August 8, 2020

Photographer Shared Portraits Of Strangers Before And After She Kissed Them

“By creating new relationships and learning about the thoughts and ideas of strangers, we might be able to build bridges and combat ignorance and judgment.”

When she attended the 2017 Roskilde Festival in Denmark, Johanna Siring befriended a plethora of strangers. Her method? Kissing.

The New York-based Norwegian artist turned these shots into a series called “Kiss A Stranger,” through which she’s trying to make a meaningful and even transformative connection with strangers: “By creating new relationships and learning about the thoughts and ideas of strangers, we might be able to build bridges and combat ignorance and judgment,” Johanna told i-D.

The photographer would approach her subject of any gender or race to take the first portrait and then would explain her idea before kissing them. Amazingly, people drop their consciously created roles and just become themselves. And there might even be some scientific facts behind this: “Kissing sparks all the nerve endings in your lips,” Johanna explains, “causing a release of dopamine and a surge in oxytocin. It’s an instantaneous stress reliever and creates an immediate emotional bond between two people.”

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Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring

She let the subjects dictate how things went. “Some would give me a quick kiss and then die of laughter afterward, while some went straight for making out,” she says. “The most interesting part was that I kind of felt that I knew them a little bit after the kiss, and I think this feeling is reflected in the second portraits.”

Johanna talks to i-D about why she believes everyone is photogenic — even if they say they aren’t — and what it was like to kiss strangers for two days.


Image source: Johanna Siring

Read further the full interview of Joanna with i-D:

Roskilde was started in the 70s during the hippie movement and has grown to become the largest music festival in Northern Europe, with headliners like Rihanna. What is the energy like there?”
“Roskilde Festival has literally been the highlight of my year for the past nine years. It differs from every other festival I’ve been to in the way that everyone hangs out with everyone. It’s a very liberating mentality. Around 125,000 people come together and create this magic “village” on a field outside for eight days straight. The festival has been non-profit since it started in 1971, and I think that does something to the mentality of the people who gather there. You can literally sit down in any camp and hang out with anyone you meet. What you do in the outside world doesn’t matter. You don’t have to worry about meetings, appointments, or planning your day. What you wear doesn’t matter — you can even wear nothing at all or attend the naked run. For an entire week you have the liberty of just existing in this carefree universe. You can turn off your brain and enjoy just hanging out, kind of like when you were a kid.”

What’s behind your interest in strangers?”
“I made a “mantra” for myself when I was pretty young: if I have a positive thought about someone, I will go and tell them. It doesn’t matter if I know the person or not. I mean, what can be better than getting a compliment from a stranger? I have ended up photographing many of these people and many of them have turned into good friends. In my world, every single person is photogenic and has something unique and interesting about them. This is what I strive to capture in all my photos — the essence of a person.”

It often seems like technology has made it harder, not easier, to make friends with strangers. How did this series help you overcome the modern-day difficulties of making friends IRL?”
“It’s all about having an open mind and meeting people with respect, regardless of someone’s background, nationality, ethnicity, or religion. You can always learn from each other. In today’s whirlwind of news stories that revolve around actions of hate, I feel it’s more important than ever to communicate how easily we can learn to know someone and the fact that we are all just human beings with the same basic instincts. By creating new relationships and learning about the thoughts and ideas of strangers, we might be able to build bridges and combat ignorance and judgment.”

What other projects are you working on?”
“I am currently working on a series with strangers I met along the way that has become dear friends — it means a lot to me. Other than that I am lucky to be collaborating with Matte, an agency in NYC that books me for projects within fashion, music, and culture. I also commute continuously from New York to Norway, where I work with a national cultural magazine called Dagbladet Magasinet. I am also collaborating with different record labels on developing the image of new and established Scandinavian artists.”


Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring


Image source: Johanna Siring