Jedediah Johnson’s “The Makeout Project” Turns Kissing Into Art

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Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.
Jedediah Johnson, "The Makeout Project." Photo: Jedediah Johnson.

While heart-shaped boxes of chocolates may be on their way out this week, “The Makeout Project,” a show of portraits of people that photographer Jedediah Johnson has kissed, while wearing bright red lipstick, is still on view in Indianapolis.

“I just love people’s faces and photographing them,” Johnson, who has enlisted men, women, and even babies for his project, told the Indy Star. “This isn’t a project about physical attraction. I kiss people because I’m visually attracted to them, so that’s pretty much everyone.”

The resulting photos are undeniably amusing: their faces smeared with Cover Girl Hot Passion Red lipstick, Johnson’s subjects stare wide-eyed into the camera. Their bewilderment and mussed makeup, the photographer’s hand resting gently on their neck, serve as the only evidence of the intimate encounter.

“I’d like for people to look at the pictures and develop their own narrative for what is happening,” Johnson explained. “I want them to come up with their own stories and imagine what the kissing was like. I just want people to experience it.”

Johnson’s photo series first attracted attention last year, thanks to exhibition at at the Art Museo gallery at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare hotel. The artist used to have to awkwardly ask people to take part in the project, with minimal success: “You cannot walk up to somebody wearing lipstick and ask them if you can kiss them. They will say no 90 percent of the time,” he told DNA Info. Now, Johnson enjoys the luxury of a surfeit of volunteers—if you want to make out in the name out art, you’re going to have to get an appointment.

Jedediah Johnson’s “The Makeout Project” is on view at Indianapolis’s A.M. Gallery through February 19.


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