Reach Out and Touch

In this post I’m featuring a selection of images on the theme of touch with a focus on holding holds and linking arms rather intimate embrace.

I’ve been reading about touch deprivation and how this affects our mental health. Since the onset of the Pandemic nearly two years ago the way we communicate socially has changed. Fist bumps, air kisses and waving as alternatives to shaking hands and hugging are no longer a novelty but commonplace greetings. With the latest highly infectious Omicron variant social distancing, limiting face to face contact and wearing masks on public transport and in stores and venues is a continuing recommendation and often a requirement.

Below, a photograph of hands almost touching, taken at the escalators of the new Battersea Power Station underground station. The image brought to mind the lyrics of the 1970s song by Diana Ross, Reach Out and Touch .. Somebody’s Hand :

In my own experience, during this period I’ve come across people who now refrain from touching. (I’ve also encountered the opposite; people who actually ask for hugs). It has has become an ingrained habit; my very cautious and fearful 84 year old mother is in this category as well as some of my my younger friends. Pre-pandemic I habitually used to link arms with good friends when going for a walk and chat but this is no longer the case. Individuals have different comfort levels when it comes to physical proximity and touch, and I now ask permission. Just yesterday one of my old friends declined my offer of linking arms on our walk, which I didn’t take personally as I understand how subjective our comfort levels are. I’m very relaxed in an outdoor setting but am less inclined to spend a lot of time in an enclosed space that is not my own home. So for example I would partner dance out in the open air, but have not attended any indoor clubs. I now do not take touch for granted — maybe that’s why a remedial massage feels even more amazing in these times of touch deprivation.

Next, a photograph taken in London’s Rathbone Place. I’m presuming this is intergenerational — a father and son both in cloth caps and tailored jackets — walking arm in arm. I like the connection, both in terms of style and in the interlinking of arms:

I saw out 2021 with an outdoor qigong workout on the morning of New Year’s Eve; I find it a good combination of physical and spiritual practice. We usually stand in a very socially distanced circle and that morning was no exception. The instructor, Sue of Metta T’ai Chi, finished the session by getting us all to reach out — as if we were holding hands in the circle — and individually express our hopes and wishes for the coming year:

The following photograph was taken during the summer at another outdoor event, Brazilian Forro dancing at Regents Park Bandstand. I love the way this couple are enjoying the dance, but united as a family — if you look closely you can see their baby looking to camera:

The next few photos predate the pandemic; a Venetian school outing on the Festa di San Martino which takes place every November 11. On this day children celebrate by playing percussion in the streets and making noise!

The image below was captured at London’s Tate Modern art gallery in 2018. I like the way the couple seem peacefully immersed in the installation, lying down and holding hands:

In the following two photographs the people are connected by an inanimate object. Firstly a mother and child hold hands on a busy high street via a soft toy:

Here the silver-haired pair are sharing an art journal on their tube journey:

A young couple on the New York subway caught in a relaxed, intimate moment, December 2019:

Sometimes the handholding involves a full on interlinking of fingers so the hands are clasped together, as with the couples in the subway and the gallery. Over the years I have also liked to capture a nuance of handholding.

The first one I can remember is this image of the gentle interlinking of little fingers from 2009 featuring my son Rafi and his then girlfriend Charlotte:

I’m intrigued by the delicate, gloved touch and connection between these members of the climate activist performance group The Red Rebel Brigade, seen passing through the ticket barriers Kings Cross Station:

The subtle gloved touch brings to mind another photograph; I get the illusion that the grey gloved hand is reaching out and touching the multicoloured hand, but in reality it’s a picture of mislaid gloves displayed on the spokes of a metal fence on Hampstead Heath:

Taken during the London lockdown in May 2020, these undressed shop mannequins in a Soho shop window provide a surreal spectacle with the added suggestion that the hands on the left of the frame are gently touching:

Last month I was struck by this found abstract seen at a bus shelter on Regents Street. It appealed to me on a number of levels. Firstly the children holding hands had a nostalgic appeal, enhanced by the faded quality of the poster. I like the collage-like texture with the torn fragments, the reflected lights and the additional text, particularly the remnants of mirror-image script below the sign on the left:

Back in 2017 I had spotted an elderly couple walking down Parliament Hill, arm in arm. It struck a chord — I realised that both colour-wise and compositionally it was reminiscent of the old Start-Rite shoe poster of two children setting off on a journey down a straight path flanked by leafy green trees. But now, many decades later, they are still stepping out on their journey together, and still linking arms:

Here’s the link to the aforementioned blog on images of passion and intimate embrace.

Originally published at Mish Aminoff.

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Mish Aminoff

Mish Aminoff

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Photographer and interdisciplinary artist living in London; photography-based blogs combining image and commentary.