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Love in Limbo

When Josef Astor shot the subjects for this photo in his New York City studio in 1990, he didn’t intend to make a controversial photo with intimations of double suicide, although some people have chosen to see it that way. He just found the image, whatever it meant, to be compelling.

Astor never intends to stir up trouble, only to make the best image he possibly can. Still, his instincts sometimes get him in trouble. He’s had the experience more than once of looking at a photo with his agent and hearing the incredulous response: “This is what you think is a straightforward shot?”

In this image, Astor didn’t want to be literal. He wanted to create a dramatic tension in the photo, but he didn’t want to tell the viewer exactly what the tension was about. He’s not even sure he knows.

When he came back to the image in 2009, he laid down a barely detectible layer of sky over the lovers, hoping that viewers would feel they were being drawn into a kind of ozone layer in a place and time that is anywhere but here and now.