Alyssa and Holly met amid global chaos. They’re long-distance lovers who look forward to spending time together doing mundane things, like thrifting and long Sunday brunches. These self-portraits celebrate their love – a deep romance.
What inspired these self portraits?
Holly and I have been doing shoots together since we first started dating. But when we saw a TikTok filter that transformed an image into an Italian Renaissance piece, we were instantly inspired. Rather than choosing a super-specific era to tap into, we picked eclectic elements to create a Baroque-Victorian-Renaissance-Bridgerton dream world.
We love working together creatively. It made perfect sense for us to put this project together as a celebration of our first Valentine’s Day as a couple!
As both avid crafters and avid thrifters, we could put together our outfits entirely from secondhand or handmade materials! I wanted to have an excuse to wear a dramatic tutu and the most voluminous sleeves I could get my hands-on. So I stitched up the skirt from bolts of soft pink tulle and created the top from a dress that didn’t quite fit right.
Holly DIY’d her crown the night before the shoot, and I painted the two abstract cloud paintings that feature in the background of a few of the shots. We also knew that we wanted some florals incorporated, but *someone* may have gotten a bit carried away and ordered 74 long-stem roses. Which Holly expertly styled for us (though we may have accidentally lit one on fire when it got too close to a candle).
Tell us about some of your favorite memories together.
A: The first night we spent together, Holly and I were curled up on the couch, and I had finally worked up the nerve to ask her to be my girlfriend. Rather than answering me, she stood up and walked across the room (a terrifying response) and then returned with a locket she’d had engraved with our initials and the date in it.
The next day, I surprised Holly with a bouquet of flowers from my favorite shop in Chicago (Asrai Garden – it’s queer-owned, too!). I was pretty certain that Holly was planning to tell me that she loved me. So when I ordered the flowers, I’d had them write, “I love you,” on the note they came with. She hadn’t said it by the time I gave her the bouquet, so I panickedly snuck the note into my pocket before she could see it. Later that afternoon, when she (finally) said it, I got to pull the same move she’d done the night before. I stood up, walked across the room, and returned with the note from the florist. It was so special to know that we were so perfectly in sync.
H: She definitely stole my favorite story. But I’ll share a funny one that actually happened the night before this styled shoot. We had big plans to order an elaborate sushi dinner for our first Valentine’s Day together. After an hour or so of carefully comparing menus and delivery times, we finally decided on a restaurant and crafted an order worthy of the 75-minute wait.
Finally, an hour later, we got a notification that we both assumed was the confirmation for our food being picked up. Only to find out the order had been canceled! At this point, we were both desperate for something other than the pretzels we had as a snack. So we frantically searched for another delivery option and decided on McDonald’s. We had big, big plans for something fancy and ended up with the exact opposite. Now I think it’ll be the perfect Valentine’s Day tradition.
You have had to navigate a long-distance relationship, how has that been?
A: While our love has come so incredibly easily and naturally, Holly and I started our relationship amid the global chaos and with 526 miles between us. Navigating a long-distance relationship in the time of COVID makes for lots and lots of Zoom dates, long and lonely days in-between visits, and painful goodbyes when we have to part ways. It’s so hard to leave half of your heart behind.
H: Definitely the distance. Our text conversations are full of “I miss you’s” and daydreams about what life will be like when we can finally be together for more than just a few days at a time. Every time we say goodbye after spending some time together. It’s like my heart shatters, and I spend the next month or so putting it back together just to do it all over again. Long-distance is certainly not for the faint of heart.
If you could give your younger selves a pep talk for the future, what would you say?
A: I spent my adolescence steeped in fundamentalism and purity culture. I would so love to travel back in time and tell my younger self that coming out would be the best thing to ever happen to me. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I’d be able to be comfortably, openly queer. But here I am with a beautiful chosen family, a partner that I trust with my whole heart and so much security in who I am.
H: I think I’d just encourage myself to not worry so much about what other people think. I spent years hiding certain aspects of myself to make other people more comfortable. But it’s never benefited me in the end. It’s taken a lot of personal growth to get to where I am now. It’s definitely an ongoing process (shout out to my therapist). Surrounding myself with authentic and wildly supportive people has also been an enormous support in helping me live a more genuine and fulfilling life.
Whats your favorite thing about one another?
A: This feels almost impossible to answer, but I think it’s the way she values communication. With the distance between us and both of us being sensitive, emotional souls, it’s crucial that we’re able to have meaningful conversations about our feelings. Holly is always ready to listen to, validate, and support anything that I bring to the table. I love knowing that I can be vulnerable with her and that I’ll always leave the conversation feeling heard. She’s the best teammate I could ever ask for.
H: I know this sounds cliché, but Alyssa is home to me. She’s the warmest, safest place to land (and she always smells amazing, too) everything a home should be. I’m constantly grateful that I can be completely myself around her and she loves every bit of me.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
It really, really does get better.
Photography by a. lentz photography