Meet the London fashion grad who photographed Grindr matches for his final project
He had to block one of them afterwards
For his final year project, LCF graduate Jak Fitzsimmons used people he’d matched on Grindr as his models.
The photography project, which he exhibited at the LCFBA show, consisted of intimate photographs of men he’d matched with on the dating app. Over 9 months he invited nearly 40 people to strip off and be photographed in a private studio, putting the images in a book along with handwritten messages they’d exchanged beforehand. The scribbled conversations varied from “I got good vibes from you” to “cut the shit, come over here and let’s have sex.”
I spoke to Jak about the idea behind the project, any threatening moments he encountered and his plans for the future.
How did you come up with the idea?
We live in a world where everyone’s addicted to their phones, so I thought doing my project on an app shows that.
Grindr is so well known, and I wanted to show it how it really is. There’s been loads of representations of it in art and fashion, but they all seem quite fake and shallow, it’s not all beautiful male models. My photos are less less about pretty people and more about the reality of the people on there.
I’m sick of dealing with modelling agencies, you get fed up of looking at Vogue because everyone’s so pretty. I didn’t want anyone to aspire to be the men in my photographs.
Would it be different if you’d used women?
No, I think it would be the same outcome for a heterosexual relationship because each image was so different.
How did you find the people?
I was quite clear about it on my profile. I changed my bio to say I was a photographer looking for models for a project, and most people ended up messaging me about it. I was quite surprised about how many narcissistic gay men there were wanting to get photographed. It was quite hard work organising schedules, but finding people wasn’t a problem at all.
Was it just in London?
Apart from a few from when I went back to my hometown in Bingley, they were all from London.
What did your tutor think of the project?
Some of the photos were quite explicit, and he was like “you got people to touch themselves in the studio?!” But he was really great with it, just cautious about me making it my own.
What was taking the photographs like, was it ever awkward?
It was actually more like a conversation with them really, and I’d try and take the pictures while they didn’t notice. I put on some music in the background and asked them if they had any song requests, so it was quite relaxed.
Were many of them nervous?
Only a few of them. Strangely it was mainly the ones who had been quite cocky online beforehand. But most of them were a dream to work with.
Was there much sexual tension while taking the photos?
At times, yeah. Some of them were so hot and we’d had really flirty chat. I did think about jumping their bones, but had to keep it professional.
I had so much chemistry with this one guy, it felt like we were on a first date. We were just chatting away so much I almost forgot to take pictures. He was quite a well-off guy from Chelsea, about 25 years old.
Did you have anyone there with you in the studio?
No, as I wanted the models to feel as comfortable as possible. I’m a black belt in karate though, so I’m always prepared.
Did you ever have any moments were you felt unsafe?
Yeah, I was always quite cautious as I know there’s a huge safety risk of meeting people online. I was quite scared at times though, some of the older men said some creepy things.
One got quite obsessed with me afterwards, I had to block him. He lived near my flat, and messaged me one day when I was at uni saying: “are you at uni today” as if he’d been watching. He’d message me non stop, asking why I wasn’t replying and apologise the next day claiming it was because he was on meth. When he found out I’d blocked him on Grindr he said “that’s a shame because my cat wanted to meet you.” I haven’t heard from him in a while luckily. Even when I’d met him he had a creepiness about him, which really came across in the photo.
Did you have a favourite?
Probably the Mistress. She really stuck in my mind. He came in beforehand as this shy, nervous man but once he was dressed and made up – she knew she was a mistress. She’d order me around and make me bring her props like whips and dildos.
I was quite nervous about photographing the older men, but those ones actually turned out the best. I felt like they were a lot more self-assured, while the younger ones still didn’t really know who they were yet.
Is it something you’d come back to in the future, maybe in other cities?
Definitely, I’d love to make a book of it with a chapter for each city.