Just as the smell of freshly baked cookies can send your mind back to childhood, the unique scent of a significant other's clothes can quickly recall to mind years of memories. While these scent-based recollections are often pleasant in the midst of a relationship, what happens when that relationship is over? An ex's fresh laundry detergent and musky cologne can combine to create an olfactory time capsule, capable of digging up long-buried emotions.
In the powerful photo series "Lovers Shirts," photographer Carla Richmond Coffing and writer Hanne Steen capture the precise moment of this emotional recollection, using pictures of women in their ex-lovers' clothing to illustrate the variety of feelings stirred up through scent. The photos depict over 50 real women experiencing sentiments that range from deep, longing sadness to positive reminiscence. The pictures are sure to resonate with anybody who has experienced the end of a serious relationship, perhaps inspiring viewers to pick up their own exes' abandoned t-shirts. Carla and Hanne also put together a poem using statements from the participants in the project:
"It feels like a flag I can't stop flying. It comforts me in the meantime between the spaces. It's just a rag I turned into a promise that he would never leave. Some sort of common thread between us. Part of me wants to rip it off. So many what-ifs and could've-beens and should've-beens and never-weres. It's just a shirt. It's been there for me when people haven't. It makes me feel childish and taken care of. It makes me look a little stronger than I am. As long as I hold onto the shirt she is never completely out of my life. I'd wear it every day if I could. As much as you build a house around it or put a ring on it it's all still temporary and dissolving so all you can do is love it. Even if it's painful we need to hold onto something. Proof that we did it. That we went through it. That we learned something. That our hearts were broken. That we were loved. That we weren't loved enough. For someone I won't be something that will be so easily shed."
These are only a few exceptionally powerful photos from this series; for the rest of the portraits, check out herclayheart.