I have known and adored Sara for years. She is the epitome of what I consider to be a rockstar. She makes fantastic photographs, she works hard, she is thoughtful, and she is fearless. Yes. Thank you. More please. This project is one I saw a while back but got reintroduced to when Sara created this beautiful, limited edition book (a few copies left, available here). I love the concept and the images. I think you will too.
kiss and tell by sara macel
Tell me a story about a kiss...
This project is a collection of memories from strangers and friends that stem from the same simple prompt: Tell me a story about a kiss. I began this project over 10 years ago when I was in my early twenties and had just met the love of my life. We fell in love like an avalanche. But even in the midst of that euphoria, I knew that by choosing this relationship, I was also giving up something. Hearing the stories in these pages allowed me to vicariously experience the romance and excitement of first kisses and one-night stands in my fantasy life. While in my real life, I was learning how to share my life with someone.
All stories shared with me were tape-recorded under the condition that the storytellers would remain anonymous. My collaborators range in age from 18 to 64. Their gender and sexual identities are as varied as their stories. Whenever possible, I traveled to the exact location of the story to create these images. When that was not possible, I looked for a place that matched the storyteller’s description. With each photograph, I reinvented someone else’s memories as my own.
When I began this project, I noticed how often the storyteller would go into precise detail about, for example, the leaves on the willow trees creating a canopy, while the person they kissed never got a name, a face, or anything other than an anonymous presence within the story. Over the years as I’ve revisited this series, I have come to appreciate that sometimes the location is the variable, because that person is the constant.
It was the Fourth of July, and we hadn’t seen each other in months. So, we grabbed a blanket and got in the car to find a secluded spot to watch the fireworks. We ended up on the edge of this field behind my best friend’s old elementary school. Within minutes of laying out the blanket, we were naked in the dark while the fireworks went off in the distance. Neither of us noticed until afterwards that we were really itchy. The field was next to a creek. There were bugs and mosquitoes everywhere. We got out of there fast and woke up the next morning covered in welts.
It happened on the class trip to the Natural History Museum. His name was Shay. We found each other in the North American Mammals section. We were sitting in front of the grizzly bears not talking or anything. We sat there for what felt like an eternity. But then he leaned over and kissed me on the lips. I got my first kiss, and that was important.
It’s important to a thirteen-year-old girl to be kissed.
I guess I was about seventeen. I was driving my girlfriend home after a fight. She started crying, so I pulled off the road on to a long private driveway in the woods so we could talk. One thing led to another, and we ended up making out in the back seat. I heard something outside the car, but figured it was just an animal. Suddenly, car became very bright. Someone from the house had pulled their car within two feet of mine and turned on their brights. They were not happy we were there. So, I start scrambling to put on my clothes and climb back into the front seat while she hid in the back. My foot was shaking so bad that I almost popped the clutch. I put the car in reverse so fast that I ended up crashing my car into a tree and just peeled out of there as fast as I could.
Did I tell you about the time I got caught making out with a girl in high school? It was in my 1990 Mercury Sable. We just got out of a late band practice, and I thought we were the last to leave. I was in the back seat with one of my girlfriends, a fellow percussionist, when the pom-pom girls got out of their practice and started walking towards my car. We threw our bras back on and drove away. But, I swear Jessica Kelly saw us.
My best friend and I used to go to this bar on 9th and Avenue C. Across the street is a park with willow trees that reach all the way up and hang over the fence creating this canopy. We always thought it would be the most romantic place to make out with someone. So we made a wager to see who could find someone to kiss there first. It took a while, but then I started dating someone. And on this rainy stormy perfect night, the canopy stopped the rain. And it was wonderful.
When I told my friend, she was really bummed. So, I bought her a drink.
I guess he was a friend of a friend. We decided to leave the bar together and went up on my roof. Right as we were climaxing, the sun came up. It was warm and red and everything seemed great. The end of the story is: He moved back to Mexico suddenly, and I have no idea where the hell he is, that bastard.
We were at a party out in Brooklyn. All our friends were there, and we were all pretty trashed. My girlfriend and I went outside to have a cigarette, and she started kissing me. I don’t know what came over us. I pulled her inside the front door behind the staircase, and we had sex right there in the hallway. The downstairs neighbors would have walked right in on it if they opened their apartment door. Who knows, maybe they look through the peephole.
I was staying at my best friend’s apartment while she was out of town. He was my forever crush and took the bus down to see me. My friend made me promise that I wouldn’t have sex with anyone in her bed, so I took him to the only bar I knew in her neighborhood. We ended up making out on one of the back couches for what must have been hours. I was on top of him when the bartender came over to tell us that the bar was closed, and we had to go.
The curtain to the photo booth was really thin, and I didn’t realize until later that the whole bar could see us having sex. When we were done, the whole bar applauded, and the bartender had two shots of whiskey with two cigarettes resting on top of each glass waiting for us.
I worked the night shift at a diner to make extra money in college. He would come in sometimes and sit and drink coffee just to keep me company. One night after my shift, we were sitting in my car. He said something, but I couldn’t hear him over the radio. So I turned to ask him what he said, and he put his hand on my cheek, pushed up my glasses, and kissed me. The relationship itself ended horribly, but in retrospect, it was a sweet series of moments. It hasn’t been that innocent since.
Oh, the hot tub! I took him out there one night when I thought everyone else had gone to bed. We turned the pool lights off and started kissing. There were some wandering hands under the water. It was so funny: my mom even came out once to see if we wanted anything to drink. She had no idea.
We spent our honeymoon in Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was a beautiful day on this deserted beach. No one was around. We both had always wondered what it would be like to make love on a beach. I guess we were both thinking about it, but neither of us knew that in the moment.
We found this spot along the dunes. I don’t think we even had a blanket, because the sand got everywhere. But it was fun. Afterwards, we got up and took a picture of the spot. I still have it.