taking photos of tinder dates' bedrooms

Photographer George Downing is redefining intimacy with glimpses into the bedrooms of the boys he met on the dating app.

by Ellen Rule
23 February 2016, 3:09pm

All photographs George Downing

George Downing has spent the last year photographing his Tinder matches in their bedrooms across Melbourne. The series reflects changing attitudes around an app once reserved for flings, which now creates friendships, love, and intimate moments — like those George captured. Collecting the portraits into his first book, Hosting, George uncovers a unique closeness in his work, between himself and his subjects. We caught up with the young photographer ahead of the book's release to talk about making something from a right swipe.

How did the idea for Hosting come about?
I guess by just thinking about the idea of dating as a millennial. The concept for Tinder is borrowed from apps like Grindr, which is designed exclusively for hook-ups. Somehow, Tinder has progressed beyond that. It's gone from something that was seen as quite superficial to something that is completely normal among the people I know.

What was it like bypassing the usual getting-to-know-you phase and immediately seeing your matches in a more vulnerable light, as you put them in front of the lens?
That was probably the most interesting part of the project for me. With most of them I organized to get a coffee first. Mainly because I felt like I could better explain the concept in person, but also because I was asking to come to their houses and take semi-nude or completely nude photos of them, so I thought some initial contact was important. Still, to go from getting a coffee to photographing them in their bedrooms is a pretty big jump! 

How did people respond when they found out you wanted to take photos of them?
Surprisingly well, which is something I was worried about when I first started thinking about the concept. It only emphasizes the point that these apps can be used for whatever you want — there are so many interesting people and Tinder makes it so much easier to meet them. They allow us to connect in a completely different way.

Have you stayed in touch with any of the boys you shot?
I've stayed in touch with all of them. Obviously taking photos like this I wanted to make sure all of the guys were comfortable with the final shots I was using, so I wanted to work closely with them and stay in contact to make sure I was updating them on which photos were being published. They're all really interesting people so I'm enjoying becoming friends with them.

What do they think about the way they were depicted in the book?
I think for the most part everyone was really happy with the way the photos came out because they were so comfortable in their surroundings. I guess that's kind of the point. You present a different image of yourself on apps like Tinder than the one your present in real life, when you expose all your vulnerabilities: it's completely different. Photographing people in their beds and then publishing them for other people to see is kind of the the same idea as Tinder, except I'm the one that's taking the photos.

'Hosting' launches at The Evelyn Hotel in Melbourne on the February 28, 2pm-8pm. 


Text Ellen Rule
Photography George Downing

George Downing