Boredom and monogamy are two ideas ingrained like memories in our collective consciousness. Those who choose monogamy are often viewed as traditionalist fools by a certain percentage of the population; while individuals who remain single for long stretches of time are often dismissed as lonely, sad, or incompatible. It’s the type of sweeping, generalized thinking that makes humans such an oddly divisive lot. But it also breeds an amateur anthropological fascination regarding our behavior.
Nearly two decades ago, photographer Martin Parr (biography) publicly examined a random sample of relationships in his book Bored Couples (Galerie du Jour Agnès B., 1993). He had no specific connection to the people he photographed, except that he was looking to challenge the notions of context and perception:
This series of photographs were taken as an opportunity to explore the veracity of the caption. We do not know if these random couples are bored or not. Who is to say what is authentic when captioned as thus? Parr also photographs himself with his partner appearing to be bored, but she is, in fact, very excited at the addition of this photo to the project. (via Magnum Photos)
It’s difficult to look at these photos without adding commentary, without attempting to insinuate what we believe to be true. Each shot appears to be imbued with a sense of disconnection, two people languishing in a certain level of familiar comfort: devoid of emotion, dancing like robots; sitting in silence after dinner, waiting for the check to arrive; or devouring burgers on a family vacation, vacant eyes locked on one another. But is the indifference we see real or manipulated? According to Parr, his work has a motive: “With photography, I like to create fiction out of reality. I try and do this by taking society’s natural prejudice and giving this a twist.”