10 Images of Fraught Intimacy by Elinor Carucci, the Woman Behind the “Cat Person” Photograph

One of the most fascinating internet phenomenons of 2017 was the commotion, and high-test handwringing, around “Cat Person,” a short story by Kristen Roupenian published in the New Yorker earlier this month. Depicting a series of bad dates and bad sex between a young woman and an older man, the details in the piece of fiction felt—especially in the context of the public discussion of power dynamics between men and women today—like a very real gut-punch. As much conversation and sub-conversation as Roupenian’s story generated, there was almost as much talk about the photograph commissioned to illustrate the story. The image of a bearded man kissing a woman who apparently does not welcome it (his lips are open; hers are firmly not) was potent enough to spawn its own parodies. The Israeli-American photographer Elinor Carucci, in fact, worked with a real couple to create the indelible image—”I knew these people would have to kiss in different ways for hours! I don’t know how I could have made two models do it,” she explained in the New Yorker. The former Guggenheim fellow, whose work has been shown in the Museum of Modern Art, has been mostly working from real life since she made her name with her first series, Closer, which was published as a monograph in 2002. It shows, in addition to unvarnished portraits of her parents, Carucci’s up-and-down relationship with her husband with the same close, unblinking, painful intimacy as “Cat Person” and the picture that accompanies it. Here, revisit the series, which Carucci began when she was 22—just two years older than Margot, the young woman in the story.


Bite #2, 2001. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Armpit, 1995. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Amber ring, 2000. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Counting tips, 1999. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


End of lips, 2000. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Fingers, 2000. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Eran almost touches me, 1999. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Eran and I, 1998. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Eran and I, 1997. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.


Eran holds me in hotel room, 1999, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery.