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What kind of men look for sex on infidelity sites? Photographer Natasha Caruana posed as a woman seeking an affair to find out, and grabbed snapshots of their furtive encounters. But what is interesting is the sheer of users. Who knew so many unhappily married people overwhelmingly, men were actively looking for an affair on this site alone? What sort of men are they, and how do they feel about their deceit?
Natasha Caruana, a photographic artist, has had a unique insight. Her project, The Married Man, which has just been released as a book, comprises photographs of 54 men she met on affair websites over the course of a year. They are deliberately dark and grainy, which adds to the atmosphere of secrecy and deceit. The seediness of the encounters is reflected in the dirty beer glasses and grubby tabletops of pubs and cafes. All you glimpse of the men is a disembodied arm in a blue office shirt, the sleeve of a dark suit, or some questionable knitwear.
There are many shots of hands devoid of wedding rings.
But The Married Man project was sparked by her own experience. She had been in a relationship with a man who was separated from his wife but still married, and was questioning how she felt about it. At the end of the piece was a list of sites where women could find married men looking for an affair. Caruana ended up going on 80 dates with 54 men. Most were in their 40s or 50s, and worked in business or finance.
There were quite a few estate agents and men who worked in media, too. Almost all had children.
Initially, Caruana met them for dinner, but soon realised it was taking too much time and it made her uncomfortable when they insisted on paying. She felt she should pay half, but as a student, the expense was mounting up. So she started meeting men for coffee or a drink in the pub. She also started restricting the dates to one-offs; early on, she met up with some of the men several times, but it was becoming awkward. Caruana was strict about not wanting physical contact with them, but one tried to kiss her on a third date. She realised then that one date was enough. Many of them said this was their first time and seemed very nervous, but others were serial adulterers.
They had all, however, put a lot of thought into how to have an affair — pseudonyms were used, and every one, she says, had a secret phone.
The men knew she was an artist, but none had any idea they were the subject of her work. Then she started using a disposable camera, whipped out on the premise of photographing something on the table. So many of the men talked about how they could go and have sex with a prostitute, but using those sites was to get something else. There is this fantasy of an affair, and I was able to show the reality — the mundanity, the loneliness.
It was just pattern after pattern. Some of the men would talk about sex and be very desire-driven, but there would still be hints of that loneliness. Did she ever feel bad about deceiving them? What happens in that exchange? He had travelled down from Newcastle to see me and was already on his second or third marriage. There was so much sadness in him. The project taught her a lot, she says, mostly about the importance of communication between couples.
Portrait of an adulterer: secret shots of 50 married men I met on dating websites. London Zoo, from the series The Married Man. It was so cold the zoo was practically deserted. He made a joke about all the layers of clothing I had on - and that he hoped I was a zero model underneath it all. Emine Saner.
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