by Ida Kamali
Photographers: Emma Hollingsworth and Zoë Waldman
Models: Ida Kamali, Onome Amudo, Ashley Yen
Videographer: Estefania Monarrez
Self-love hides underneath the shadow of romantic love. In a culture dominated by consumerism, the ways in which love is monetized through a Hallmark holiday come as no surprise. Generations of people now express their love through credit card transactions and mediocre exchanges of sentimental gifts. The obligation to find romantic love leaves many people devoted to inauthentic relationships, without the fervor and warmth that true companionship warrants. This culture of superficial love often has a lifespan as long as the bundle of freshly cut roses that perishes soon after they are bought.
There has long been a cultural bias that places romantic love above friendship. I was inclined to do a photoshoot with friends, rather than a traditional Valentine’s Day couple shoot because I wanted to emphasize the importance of the search for self-love and companionate love. Friendship needs to be prioritized more because it is often more accessible than romance and can ease the extremes of life.
Beyond friendship, self-love remains even more overlooked. Self-acceptance is a crucial component to achieving a stable sense of liberation that so many of us seek. Both the love we cultivate within ourselves and our friendships are critical for developing and sustaining human society. They are vital for happiness. Instead of buying into the constant search for romantic love, it may be more worthwhile to focus our energy towards engaging in loving behaviors within ourselves and our platonic relationships…
When creating the Valentine’s Day looks, I constructed two visions for the shoot, one with darker reds and the other with softer pinks. Through the use of the black and red outfits, I hoped to highlight independence, boldness and passion.
With the pinks, I toyed with the classic romance, sweetness and tradition that Valentine’s Day typically evokes. Valentine’s Day clothing, as evident by advertisements and clothing stores, is gorged with frilly dresses and lace intimates. While upholding the common colors of the holiday, I tried to add more dimension to the normative take on Valentine’s day outfits.
On some scale, I wanted the photo-shoot to counter the hetero-patriarchal type of love that reduces and separates people from each other and the community. Too often, people that reside on the margins of society don’t receive the love they deserve. Alternatively, those that fit within the constraints of heteronormative, patriarchal values feel an entitlement to love. A love that is founded on entitlement and obligation is unstable and prone to breaking.
Love is not more “real” simply because it fits within the social norms. Rather, it causes people to compromise to fit what is expected. People have the capacity to love beyond the boundaries that are currently in place. In order to emancipate human expression and love, we need to begin by slowly breaking the chains that keep marginalized people down. Love must finally be recognized as intersectional.
Valentine’s Day signifies a lust for romantic love, rather than a search for all types of real love. Without a significant other, Valentine’s Day leaves many people feeling the depths of loneliness. Whether they look inwards or outwards, they feel as though they are not deserving of love. While days such as Valentine’s Day are seemingly arbitrary, February 14th can be a day for remembering how to practice giving and receiving love in healthy ways.
Make Valentine’s Day more than just romance. Make it about a commitment to taking a closer look within yourself, your everyday life, your work and your relationships to uncover where love and care hide. •
Ida Kamali is a third-year Economics and Government double major. This is her first semester at Spark. In her spare time, she is often found drawing, reading literature or finding cool bargains at thrift stores.