I Wrote & Shot 365 Letters to My Ex-Lovers, But My Last Letter is For You
For as long as love has existed, love letters have followed. From the Roman poet Ovid to the French philosopher Voltaire to the German composer Beethoven, men have loved and lost and written about it. Humans have long romanticized the idea of a love letter -- born from the depths of emotional turmoil. But whether it be from scorned love to unrequited love to young love; history seems to have favored male authors.
But you know what? Women write them too.
Scientist Marie Curie almost lost her Nobel Prize when the letters to her much younger (and married) lover exposed her to scandal. Abigail Adams used her letters to President John Adams to advocate for women’s rights.
And between 2013-2015, I wrote them. And shot them: 365 photographic letters to my ex-lovers. Here’s a few:
I didn’t fall in love with you in New York. It wasn’t Paris either. It was the empty ballroom of a California hotel we’d broken into. You’d spun me around as the sun fell and the night rose. There was no DJ, there was no band — only our laughter.
Sorry if your heart is heavy. It’s still carrying mine.
You had a way with women and I had a way with words. I wound up in your bed and you wound up in my words.
Men rarely ever get told they’re beautiful. They should be. You were. You are. You had the kind of beauty that wasn’t glaringly obvious. It crept up on a person like the morning sun. Slowly, but surely — inch by inch until it suddenly dawned on me, covered me in its warmth, until that blinding smile of yours was all I saw. Your beauty could rival the setting sun over the Seine, give the glitter lights of Tokyo a run for their money, put the Sierra Nevada to shame. And the realization screamed at me, louder than the roaring Pacific. You are beautiful. And I was in love.
Almost is the most heartbreaking word — as in we almost made it. You almost were the one. We almost had forever.
I was a tsunami and you were a hurricane. We destroyed everything in our paths including each other.
I know people rarely write about brown eyes. Because blue is already the color of a cloudless sky. Because green is freshly cut grass on a summer day. Because grey is the heart of a tornado. Because hazel is the rising sun. But brown is my morning coffee, something to wake up to and something to drown in. Brown is warm, soft, and deep all at once. Your eyes are brown.
I’ll tell you the truth, this project began in anguish. I was fresh off a breakup and it was my darkest hour. I was a lone ship lost in a raging sea — no anchor, only the storm. So I created this project. Created my own harbor. Built my own lighthouse. This project became my light in the storm. I thought it would end as a monument to the people I’ve loved and lost, but now it’s a reminder of the person I’ve become and how hard I fought to become her.
And you might be wondering what I did with all these letters? I published them. Yes, as in — in a public space; they were on the internet. Strangers were reading them. Strangers were in my DM’s about them. People were coming to me with their own stories of love and loss — proving that it’s love that ties all of humankind together.
For two years I wrote these letters and they helped me move through the most tumultuous time in my life. Four years after the conclusion of this project, I have one last letter. My final letter is for you:
Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Do you recall how easy it was? It happened when you weren’t even looking — your heart stolen because you weren’t guarding it. Why would you? You’ve never known what loss feels like. Remember the second time you fell in love? Improbable, yes. Impossible, no. It happens when you’re ready; when you’ve glued back the pieces of your dismantled heart and you’ve cautiously offered it up to someone else — all the while thinking: please, please, please don’t break it. Don’t break me.
The third time though, the third time will be rough. Because you’re going to have to fight for it even if you’re exhausted. Even if you’re afraid. Even if you’re guarded. It’s an uphill battle. You’re the last surviving member of your battalion. You carry on, a lone solder — with the burning white flag you’ve thrown to the wind behind you. You will be tempted. You will be tested. But don’t surrender. Don’t look back.
There are others who have stood where you have stood. Others have come before. Others will come long after. Others are searching for you as you are searching for them. You think you’re alone. You’re not. I’m here. We’re all here. We’re all united in our emotions — in feeling love and in feeling loss. It’s what makes us alive. Feel it. Let it in.
If you’re going through something — if you need someone to talk to, drop me a line. Talk to me. This is a love letter. I wrote this for you. You can write me back.