An archive of touch: Ken Graves and Eva Lipman’s Restraint and Desire

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The intimate book explores the unspoken bonds visible across US society

Touch is a complicated game. Codes, systems and rules govern touch between friends, lovers, strangers and family. And Restraint and Desire, the culmination of a lifelong creative partnership between the late Ken Graves and his wife Eva Lipman, compiles the pairs’ joint investigation into the haptic complexities between people during social rituals across America: from high school proms to boxing matches, football games and military ceremonies. 

The book moves between black-and-white photographs of bodies that can touch and bodies that do not and cannot. The interlocking arms of boxers shift into the loving embrace of a couple, while an image of two kissing teenagers leads into soldiers shaking hands. Each touch, or lack thereof, marks the tension between bodies: awkward, formal, sexual, intimate, loving. And the photographs of these physical communications exist as a sort of history of unspoken bonds and a reflection of Lipman and Grave’s relationship itself. Indeed, the pair sensed sexual undertones, unspoken and unconscious, in many of the moments they captured. As Lipman reflects, “our work reflected back to us, like a mirror, the intensities and power dynamics of our shared life together.”

Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.