For the last three years, photographer Jedediah Johnson has made a career out of putting on lipstick, making out with people, and taking photos of the often messy results.
The series, called The Makeout Project, attempts to change our preconceived notions about kissing. In American culture, Johnson says, kissing is inseparable from sex and intimacy. In many other cultures, it means something else entirely.
At the beginning of the project, Johnson made out with only friends and friends of friends. As his work has gained popularity due to his blog Makeoutville, he has started to get requests from random people on the internet. This year, he traveled to Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis on, what he has termed, “The Great Midwestern Makeout Tour.” He is currently planning a road trip to Toronto this August to scout out more potential makeout subjects.
Johnson shared a selection of his photos with us here, and you can check out the rest at his website.
Johnson began The Makeout Project by putting on lipstick at parties, going up to random people, and kissing them. He says he didn’t ask permission at the beginning because people’s knee-jerk reaction is always no.
While he says the project worked in the beginning — and had far less negative reactions than one might think — he eventually decided it would be better if he set up appointments with people who knew what was coming. “I got tired of trying to kiss people without asking,” he said. “You start to feel like a jerk after a while.”
When Johnson photographed friends and friends of friends at the beginning of the project, he said he was often more nervous than his subjects.
“It’s like a rollercoaster,” Johnson says. “The worst part is the anticipation.”
Johnson doesn’t warn his subjects about how he plans to kiss them. The makeouts range from shallow and closed-mouth kisses to full-on makeouts.
Johnson uses Cover Girl Hot Passion red lipstick. The messier the lipstick on the subject’s face, the more intense the makeout.
Johnson has made out with two women in front of their boyfriend or husband. He says that both kissed him with tightly closed mouths.
Johnson says he got the most nervous when he made out with a friend’s boyfriend.
Since his blog Makeoutville has become popular, he has taken on requests from people all over the country. This man from Chicago asked Johnson to photograph him after reading an article about the project in DNAInfo. Johnson says the man was uncomfortable during the makeout and pulled away quickly, which Johnson found odd because he asked Johnson to come and photograph him.
This is Karen, whom Johnson met at the Melody Inn, a nightclub in Indianapolis. They have the same birthday.
This is Jesse Fox, who is a photographer in Cincinnati, Ohio. Johnson took this photo on his recent Great Midwest Makeout Tour.
Johnson took this photo at Famous Neons Unplugged, a bar in Cincinnati, Ohio. This was also taken on Johnson’s recent tour.
Johnson met this woman while celebrating his birthday at a Veterans Of Foreign Wars Hall.
Here’s what Johnson looks like.
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