Moving ‘Lovers Shirts’ Project Explores the Bittersweet Memories of Love Lost


We’ve all had a relationship that just ended, either on a good note or bad note, leaving us with a longing, empty feeling. To our detriment, it’s a feeling that often has us latching onto every last memory and connection to that relationship that is left to us.

And it’s this exact clinging and longing that HERCLAYHEART, a photographer/writer duo consisting of Carla Richmond Coffing and Hanne Steen, wanted to capture in their powerful collaborative series Lovers Shirts.


Created as an exploration into why we tend to latch onto the physical possessions of exes, particularly clothing, Lovers Shirts captures portraits of individuals wearing a shirt that belonged to an ex-lover.

“There is something about these pieces of clothing — even old and torn, they feel special, different than any other piece of clothing,” Steen says, specifically referencing a recent situation that “sparked [her] curiosity (and a little irrational jealousy) into the phenomenon of lovers’ shirts.”

Upon first look, you’ll almost immediately recognize the tears in the eyes of many of the subjects. And while they may look ‘put on’ or over-emphasized, it’s the process leading up to the capturing of these images that provokes the sad thoughts and brings up the difficult memories from lovers past.


The subjects — both genders and all ages, sexual preferences and current relationship statuses are represented — spend the first half of the twenty-minute session sitting down and reflecting on the memories of the lover whose shirt their wearing.

“This has a calming, grounding effect, and establishes an atmosphere of trust,” says Steen. Once ten minutes has passed, “Carla steps in and starts quietly photographing, and after ten minutes I (Hanne) begin a gentle dialogue with the subject about their experience of reflecting on the questions.”


The results speak for themselves. The portraits capture intimate, thoughtful moments and through them, beg us to ask ourselves the same questions about the lovers we’ve lost and remnants of them we might have hidden in a drawer or closet.

Below are a collection of images from the series, which HERCLAYHEART was kind enough to share with us. Before the images, however, there’s an accompanying poem made up of anonymous statements drawn from the subjects of these portraits.

The poem, Steen told The Huffington Post, “express the varied and simultaneously universal relationships we have with our lovers’ shirts,” and is a perfect prequel to the series itself.

It feels like a flag I can’t stop flying. It comforts me in the meantime between the spaces. It’s just a rag I turned into a promise that he would never leave. Some sort of common thread between us. Part of me wants to rip it off. So many what-ifs and could’ve-beens and should’ve-beens and never-weres. It’s just a shirt. It’s been there for me when people haven’t. It makes me feel childish and taken care of. It makes me look a little stronger than I am. As long as I hold onto the shirt she is never completely out of my life. I’d wear it every day if I could. As much as you build a house around it or put a ring on it it’s all still temporary and dissolving so all you can do is love it. Even if it’s painful we need to hold onto something. Proof that we did it. That we went through it. That we learned something. That our hearts were broken. That we were loved. That we weren’t loved enough. For someone I won’t be something that will be so easily shed.


















To see the rest of the images in the series (and there are many more) head over to the HERCLAYHEART website. And if you’d like to explore each of these artists’ work individually, you can follow writer Hanne Steen and photographer Carla Richmond Coffing by clicking here and here, respectively.

(via Huffington Post)

Credits: Photographs by Carla Richmond Coffing, writings by Hanne Steen and used with permission

  • Eden Wong

    Honestly? I’m sorry, but a few of those made me laugh… may I burn in hell…

  • SlvrScoobie

    Where are the other genders again, i see a lot of females. I dont think I could put ON my wifes tshirt.

  • Toby Hawkins

    Sorry, grammar police:
    “whose shirt their wearing”

  • Jason Honyotski

    No, I’ pretty sure that longing, empty feeling is because I’ve never had the pleasure of being in a relationship with somebody.

  • Eden Wong

    You want to borrow my shirt?

  • Jason Honyotski

    Yes please

  • Stan B.

    All due respect, I think this essay would have had a somewhat less commercial feel to it had it been in B&W, without such tight framing .

  • Roxie Lemus

    until I looked at
    the draft 4 $7388 , I have faith that…my… brother truly bringing in money
    in their spare time at there computar. . there mums best friend haz done this
    for under twenty two months and a short time ago paid the mortgage on their
    home and purchased themselves a Alfa Romeo . go WWW.jObspup.ℂ­OM

  • patriciacyamamoto123

    my classmate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the
    computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
    $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    “The subjects — both genders and all ages, sexual preferences and current relationship statuses are represented — spend the first half of the twenty-minute session sitting down and reflecting on the memories of the lover whose shirt their wearing.”

    Surely, this is a print error?

  • Josh Landquest

    These women all are pretty gorgeous, not sure if it’s the raw expressions or what, but man, great idea and great photos

  • Sid Ceaser

    This is to Emily, where ever she might be in life: I know you took my Toad the Wet Sprocket hat when broke up and you moved out back in ’99. I’ve never forgiven you for that.

  • Birear

    just before I looked at the receipt ov $8130 , I
    didn’t believe that my sister woz like actualy bringing in money part-time from
    there pretty old laptop. . there aunts neighbour has been doing this 4 only
    about 22 months and at present repayed the mortgage on their appartment and
    bought themselves a Chrysler . see here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • rambo

    I can empathize with the adobe flash widow, now I´m dating Hype, dunno If it´s gonna be a long term thing…

  • Joe


    Actually, double yawn. More half cocked, hackey, gimmicky, novelty garbage, brought to you by content desperate petapixel.

    A good photograph does not need a written explanation.

    Even with a written explanation, these images are unmoving, uncreative and uninteresting. Similar to the output of the headline writers at petapixel.