An Open Relationship: James Barnett explores familiarity and intimacy

James Barnett

I moved to Berlin in March 2018 with my boyfriend of four years.

Five months into living in the city, he tells me he wants an open relationship; not just discreet, casual no strings fun on the side, he want’s full blown romantic and emotional connections with other guys. I was happy to simply remain monogamous.

When I came back to Berlin from working at Pride in London, he had began seeing another boyfriend. Four days later, and I’m introduced to him.

Very suddenly, I felt more alone than ever in this new city. And entirely redundant.

In an effort to meet new people from across Berlin, I began approaching individuals via social media to sit for me, and have their portrait taken.

These sessions were never meant to be ‘hook ups’ but the process of organising these encounters, and the accompanying intimate situations we found ourselves in during shooting, had the strange familiarity of meeting guys from an app – something I hadn’t done since I started seeing my boyfriend.

I had been happy existing in a monogamous relationship, but my boyfriend’s tactless actions encouraged me to be more relaxed at the possibility that these anonymous encounters could become physical, even sexual.

I worked to three rules whilst I shot this collection: No retouching. No special lighting. No filters. Just me, the subject and the camera.

After six months of living in Berlin, I split with my boyfriend and moved back to London in August 2018. I knew I was not cut out for polyamory. He’s still seeing the other guy he fell in love with.

The project continues.

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett

James Barnett


Photography and words James Barnett


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