Return to Sender by Tommy Kha

Issue 84

For a while now, I've invited people to kiss me, but I don't kiss them back.

These people are strangers, friends, friends of friends, the occasional barflies, a few–very few ex-lovers, and some mentors. I tell them all the same thing: they can kiss me however they want, but they have to kiss me on the lips.

Since the photographs take place at night, the exposures are longer, so the Kissers have to hold their pose for the camera, while I remain deadpan, assuming this passive character I've created.

I'd break from the Kiss–that's how the person who is kissing me knows it's safe to move. I run back to the camera, reviewing the photograph, making minor changes. Most of the time, I'd direct them to turn their head slightly so the light can hit their face more. Or they moved slightly, and we have to make the picture again.

I never tell them how to kiss me, allowing them to maintain a sense of control over their own depiction. Some would leave space between us. A few would touch my face, or my shoulders. A favorite is picking me up physically.

I had some try to put their tongue in me.

Return to Sender (2010 – ongoing; well, occasionally ongoing)

Tommy Kha lives and works in New York and Memphis, Tennessee. His first monograph, A Real Imitation, was recently published through Aint-Bad Editions.
To view more of Tommy's work, please visit his website.

 Amy, Brooklyn, NY 2014

Amy, Brooklyn, NY 2014

 Jerry, New Haven, CT 2013

Jerry, New Haven, CT 2013

 Sonya, Brooklyn, NY 2010

Sonya, Brooklyn, NY 2010

 Dino, New York, NY 2014

Dino, New York, NY 2014

 Kati, New York, NY 2013

Kati, New York, NY 2013

 Clifford, New Haven, CT 2012

Clifford, New Haven, CT 2012

 Hayley, Memphis, TN 2014

Hayley, Memphis, TN 2014

 Hunter, Brooklyn, NY 2014

Hunter, Brooklyn, NY 2014

 Nikita, Woodstock, NY 2011

Nikita, Woodstock, NY 2011

 Susan, Brooklyn, NY 2013

Susan, Brooklyn, NY 2013

 Nico, Brooklyn, NY 2010

Nico, Brooklyn, NY 2010

 Travis, Brooklyn, NY 2013

Travis, Brooklyn, NY 2013

 Nic, New York, NY 2011/2014

Nic, New York, NY 2011/2014

 Christopher, Toronto, ON 2015

Christopher, Toronto, ON 2015

 Shawn, New York, NY 2010

Shawn, New York, NY 2010

 Yang, New York, NY 2010

Yang, New York, NY 2010

 Mariana, Brooklyn, NY 2013

Mariana, Brooklyn, NY 2013

 Kenya, New Haven, CT 2013

Kenya, New Haven, CT 2013

 Danny, Syracuse, NY 2015

Danny, Syracuse, NY 2015

 Kyle, New York, NY 2013

Kyle, New York, NY 2013