Karla Hiraldo Voleau used an actor to reenact intimate moments with her ex-boyfriend in a series of images that tell the story of their relationship
When photographer Karla Hiraldo Voleau first started collating visuals for a project brief on lovers and intimacy in 2021, she couldn’t have foreseen the devastating realities that would determine its end. Intimate, sun-soaked snapshots of her relationship shatter into shards of lies when the photographer discovers that her partner (given the pseudonym X to maintain his anonymity) has been having an affair.
Another Love Story, the new photobook published by Mörel, arrives a year after the project premiered at the MEP Studio in Paris. Initially conceived as a tribute to love, after discovering the treachery of X’s double life, the sentiment morphed into something much darker; a confrontation and appropriation of the mimesis of intimacy.
In Another Love Story, Hiraldo Voleau channels raw emotional fallout into a deeply personal memento. The astute and daring brilliance of this series is that a large majority of these supposedly spontaneous images are fake. What Hiraldo Voleau presents to viewers are re-enactments of the original snaps performed with a paid actor who uncannily resembles her adulterous ex.
“The blurring of reality and fiction in this project mimics what I lived through,” the photographer says. “It’s quite a literal transcription of my feelings and of a relationship where you don’t have any idea who is in the pictures. It becomes almost nauseating that this happy loving man looking at me with tender eyes and smiling is putting on a façade.”
Another Love Story is arranged in such a way that it isn’t until around halfway through the book, when we’re confronted with the transcript of Hiraldo Voleau’s revelatory phone call with another woman – known as ‘A’ – that we become wise to the layers of deception and overlapping histories that complicate the relationship’s archive.
“I’m not saying that everyone has a narcissistic pervert in their lives, but I hope that the project will help people realise other incongruities in their lives and relationships” – Karla Hiraldo Voleau
“It is a real and intense conversation where you’re experiencing two women finding out that their lives are shattered,” Hiraldo Voleau tells Dazed. “Everything that they believed in their relationship with the same man is a lie.”
Hiraldo Voleau’s tragic love story plays out in 180 camera roll images, presented in a scrapbook tableau that recounts the 13 months of her second relationship with X. The photographs, arranged in grids, clouds and storyboard strips, are evocative of an Instagram feed, reflecting the manipulatable staging of #couplegoals and pressure to perpetuate a socially conditioned ideal of monogamous romantic love.
“When I returned to the project with open eyes, I saw that even if one photograph couldn’t tell me anything, when laying out images from a whole year, you could see the evolution of how I look at him and how he looks at me,” she says. “The whole corpus of our relationship revealed hints that we were not doing good. Bit by bit, month by month, the gaze was changing. I would photograph him from far away, fragmented. A photograph itself doesn’t necessarily represent reality but the way that you photograph a subject over time perhaps does.”
By confronting, editing and re-enacting episodes of her relationship with a model, Hiraldo Voleau achieves a reconciliation of the trauma of the event. “Another Love Story has given me great strength and the leading role in my own story. In reality, I was being silenced by X. He told me I was lying and at points it made me doubt my sanity. With this project, I was the director on my own terms.”
Allowing an orchestrated truth to take the place of unsettling deception has empowered Hiraldo Voleau and – since the project was first exhibited – a host of other women who have lived through similar experiences.
“I’m not saying that everyone has a narcissistic pervert in their lives,” the photographer quips, “but I hope that the project will help people realise other incongruities in their lives and relationships.” She continues: “I surprised myself in being very open to love again and still consume love stories. Of course, when you’re in the storm you don’t believe in love, or life but quickly I recovered. Thanks to the allyship of this other woman, we were able to find an outlet for our collective sorrow and process it quickly.”
Another Love Story by Karla Hiraldo Voleau is published by Mörel and is out now.