(Photo: George Downing)
Capturing Internet Age Intimacy In Tinder Dates' Bedrooms
Even though your mum hates it, Tinder is a staple in modern youth culture. Dating, like everything else, has progressed beyond the point of meeting your soulmate in a chance encounter at a ball, and that's okay.
Unlike what your mum says, though, real intimacy and affinities can be born out of all the dating apps and right swipes across our screens. Despite the preconceptions from previous generations and the prudes among us, Tinder isn't driving romance into the ground.
Which is why Australian photographer George Downing, fed up of Tinder's negative connotations, is subverting the status quo with a stunning photo series of his dates in their most personal spaces: their bedrooms.
As part of Melbourne's queer male Tinder scene, George's honest portraits explore his personal experience of the fleeting relations of romance in the digital age. Predominantly taken in the last year, the photos are collected in his debut book Hosting, which just came out.
The young photographer's portraits offer a snapshot of what can come from digi-dating, a closeness and candid bonds that are more than just hook-ups. We got chatting to George about how the strangers he met became boys he now knows.
Konbini: So why did you start your series Hosting?
George Downing: Well I met my ex partner through Tinder and we were together for two years - he’s the last guy featured in the book and the only one who wasn’t a stranger to me when I started the project. So that got me thinking about a lot of preconceptions surrounding online dating and how it’s somewhat looked upon negatively… we used to lie and tell people we met at uni.
"A stranger met online can become so much more"
But now it’s become so normalised and it’s common for people to meet their partners on Tinder. I wanted to explore how these attitudes towards the app are changing and how a stranger met online can become so much more. The project also emphasises that it’s up to the user to decide what they want to get from the experience. Tinder is just another way to meet new and interesting people and you can take advantage of this ease and do whatever you want with it.
Did you actually go on dates with your subjects, or was it purely for photos?
It was purely for photos. I worked on the book for just under a year and for that time I mainly used Tinder for the purpose of finding my subjects. I’d chat to my matches online and establish a connection, then tell them a bit about the project and ask if they were interested. We’d organise to meet and talk about the concept in person, and from there we’d decide on a day for me to come over and take their portraits.
How do you view Tinder and how it’s affected society and modern relationships?
As a result of my own experiences I view it in a mostly positive light. There’s no denying it’s superficial, but I view it as something that facilitates more connectivity. There are so many interesting people out there I would have otherwise not met if I hadn’t used it.
"There are so many interesting people out there I would have otherwise not met"
What would you say about how people are on dating apps in comparison to real life after meeting them?
It’s kind of just a reminder to try to not be too judgemental of people online. Your views of someone and your expectation of how they will be might be completely different from how they actually are, so it’s important to keep an open mind.
The best thing for me was that this project allowed me to skip most of the small talk phase that often happens when you match with someone. We would organise to meet in real life soon after we started chatting, where it’s so much easier to get to know someone.
How did your dates react to getting their photo taken by you?
Everyone was happy to be involved in the project. Obviously allowing someone to take intimate portraits of yourself in your own space is pretty daunting, let alone a stranger from the internet, but by the time I’d finish shooting each of the guys I already felt quite close to them. It was almost as if we’d bypassed the whole getting to know each other phase.
Where are Hosting's subjects now? Did you stay connected?
I’ve stayed connected with all of them. A priority for me was making sure they were comfortable with the photos I chose to include so I kept them updated during the whole process.
You can buy George Downing's photo book Hosting or see more of his work on his website.
By Lydia Morrish, published on 01/03/2016