Sabrina Carpenter and Barry Keoghan’s Separate Arrivals to the Met Gala

Barry Keoghan was the scheming heart of one of last year’s most talked-about movies and played a major role in stirring up a general thirst for Irish actors. Sabrina Carpenter, fresh off her opener duties on what may go down as the most profitable music tour in history, has a top 10 Billboard hit and the TikTok song du jour.

So when Ms. Carpenter and Mr. Keoghan, a buzzy young couple, walked the red carpet separately at this year’s Met Gala, posing for their own pictures, fans took notice.

Ms. Carpenter arrived wearing a custom bustier gown with a light blue bouffant skirt by Oscar de la Renta. Mr. Keoghan appeared in a velvety brown Burberry suit and a black top hat. They individually posed for photos in the center of the carpet before heading into the museum for the cocktail hour.

Admirers of Ms. Carpenter’s latest single, “Espresso,” or Mr. Keoghan’s turn as a prep-school arriviste in “Saltburn” might have been expecting to see more images of them together on one of the most obsessed-over red carpets of the year. But sometimes you just need some pictures of yourself, alone, and the reasons may vary.

It’s unclear what strategy — if any — is informing the pair’s decisions as to when they want to be spotted together. But in a moment when many people use their cellphones as their only camera, the professional shots taken at major events like weddings and graduations can take on outsize importance. For image-conscious celebrities, the Met Gala may be the superstar equivalent.

The significance of couples taking photos together at special events is well established. It’s evident in those moments when you have to ask a girlfriend or boyfriend to step aside to take a few wedding pictures of “just the family,” reserving the spot for couples who have some real skin in the game.

The impulse not to take photos together at a big event doesn’t automatically mean that there are cracks in the relationship, or — in situations slightly more down-to-earth than the Met Gala — that your family doesn’t like your partner. But given the exclusivity of this event, posing for photos at the bottom of those steps has become a coveted moment for stars, creating images that may very well follow them for the rest of their careers. And the Met carpet, like other red carpets, provides a prime opportunity for guests to debut a new relationship or make a romantic display of affection.

That said, taking photos with a relatively new partner might be jumping the gun if it’s too soon to know whether the relationship will last a year, or even a month. If the relationship falters, in all the fancy images of your big night you’ll be sharing the frame with an ex. (Mr. Keoghan and Ms. Carpenter have both posted solo shots on their Instagram accounts.) It also risks sending the message that things are more serious than they are. Or it just may be that after dozens of selfies together, they would like a few by themselves.

Overthinking the optics of a red-carpet photo might be an extension of the same early-relationship anxieties that surround meeting a partner’s friends or bringing someone home for the holidays for the first time.

This could explain why the fashion designer Christian Cowan and Sam Smith took the moment to make their debut as a couple after two years of dating, using their first appearance as Met Gala guests to hard-launch on the museum steps in matching white and black suits. Publicists were eager to offer a behind-the-scenes feature, mindful of how impactful it could be.

Other couples like the actor Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, posed together as they made their way along the carpet. Jessica Biel arrived alone, leaving many online wondering why her husband, Justin Timberlake, wasn’t in attendance. And the actress Kerry Washington came with her husband, the actor Nnamdi Asomugha, but mostly posed alone for pictures.

Even though Ms. Carpenter and Mr. Keoghan were separated on the carpet, users on social media pointed out how their outfits looked to be coordinating, with one user writing on X, “Sabrina Carpenter and Barry Keoghan in the Met Gala are so Alice in Wonderland coded.”

Although they went solo on the carpet, the pair ended up getting their moment as a couple. After they reunited at the top of the stairs, they took a photo together before heading inside. One video online showed Ms. Carpenter scurrying past the gaggle of reporters and cameras to the top of the steps and, soon after, she ran over to meet Mr. Keoghan in an embrace.

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