Photograph by Robin Hammond
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D & O, 2014
Photograph by Robin Hammond

Love in 7 Portraits

Each Valentine’s Day I ask photographers to share one of their photographs that they feel captures love. And every year I am rewarded with powerful examples of how love can be seen and felt in a still image. This Valentine’s Day seven National Geographic photographers shared images of love in its many forms—familial love, romantic love, companionship, and love in the face of hatred. These images and their stories show that love can be found anywhere—from the most conflict-ridden places on Earth to the warmth and safety of a bed in the smallest of towns—captured in a single frame. —Jessie Wender, senior photo editor

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Valentine Cat, 2011 Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Of course, relationships change between siblings at different stages of life. Perhaps for Tatiana and Olga it had more to do with age than distance. When I met them they were still kids—running around the tundra, building houses from snow, and telling each other secrets at night. Now Tatiana is about to graduate from high school and is making serious decisions about college and her future profession. Olga is graduating from college in a big city and is at a crossroads on her career path. Their relationship is different today, but sisterly love only grows stronger, and it remains a source of support for both of them. —Evgenia Arbugaeva

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South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2014 Photograph by Michael Christopher Brown

This woman was raped during one of the myriad conflicts inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where conflicts of ever changing names and causes have and continue to affect tens of millions of people. Rape is an act of violence, an opposite of love, a weapon of war. But if war cannot ultimately destroy love, then neither can rape.

After photographing many rape victims in Congo over the past several years, I’ve often asked if their idea of love is then changed. Do they understand it as well, in the same way, or does love become something foreign to them? Something not as pure? Or does love begin to mean something much more, something more precious, more necessary and life sustaining? —Michael Christopher Brown

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From the series “Inventing My Father,” 2013 Photograph by Diana Markosian
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D & O, 2014 Photograph by Robin Hammond

Meeting D and O and hearing their story touched me deeply. Like many other stories for my project “Where Love Is Illegal,” harrowing accounts often ended with beautiful illustrations of the strength of love and the power of choosing.

Four weeks ago, on a beautiful summer’s day on the shore of a lake in New Zealand, I reached out my hand to my bride and read to her my wedding vows, the origin of which only she knew: “Aude, take my hand as a sign of my commitment to return the love you have shown me, to support you as you’ve supported me—through sickness and health, wealth and poverty, doubt and success, I choose you.” Robin Hammond

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Sutherland, Peninsula Antonio Varas, Chilean Patagonia, 2014 Photograph by Tomás Munita

I felt this paradox in Patagonia, itself—its incredible beauty and extreme harshness. This duality is well contained and represented in the gauchos’ tranquil personalities, a mirror of the landscape and their connection to it. —Tomás Munita

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My Grandmother’s Hands, 2003 Photograph by Erika Larsen

I watched her when she sat in her room and listened to the radio, when she would pick weeds in the garden outside, and at the kitchen table where she played solitaire.

This image was made after she had finished gardening in the early evening. The ambient light was almost gone but she still seemed to glow, her hands in particular. In one single moment her hands seem to reveal to me an entire lifetime of memories that were the sum of her whole life, the lives before her, and those to come. I saw my father, myself, and my child yet to be born. She gave me all the emotions one can have in a lifetime, originating and culminating in love. —Erika Larsen

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Sami & Lior, 2013 Photograph by Kitra Cahana

Ed Ou

To experience more inspiring photographs and stories of love, read “Picturing Love: The Stories Behind 8 Indelible Images.”