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In 2016, Grindr, the dating app that came to notoriety for being able to facilitate hookups between gay men, executed a string of moves to alter where it sits in the marketplace. After linking up with PR Consulting in late 2015, a public relations agency that represents brands like Balmain, Versace, and Calvin Klein, the company live-streamed the J. W. Anderson fashion show, hosted a party in collaboration with a variety of artists at The Standard, released its own fashion line, and assisted users in getting registered to vote. It was quite the agenda for an app typically thought of for being able to discern who was in your area and available. But alongside these changes, the company began seriously investing in photography.
“The goal,” Landis Smithers, Grindr’s creative director and a photographer in his own right, tells The Creators Project, “is to become a bit of a launching ground for emerging talent and a place for established talent to show off work that they might not have demand for elsewhere.” What that has looked like so far has included a book of photography called Home, shot by Matt Lambert, as well as a variety of posts on social media shot by photographers like John Arsenault and Dusty St. Amand. But in the coming months, Smithers plans to expand the program.
According to Smithers, the photographers Grindr works with can be divided most neatly into three groups. The first represents a group of established photographers, like Lambert, who have a defined point of view and a bit of notoriety as traditional photographers. The second involves up and coming shooters who have found some success but are still developing their own eye, like St. Amand and Arsenault. While Arsenault has worked with brands like TOMS, St. Amand admits that the work he started with Grindr in February 2016 is his biggest project yet. The third group is to be scouted by a new Grindr hire.
“We are bringing on a guy from Wonderland [magazine] in London, Oly Innes,” Smithers revealed. “We have challenged him to go out and find what we are calling natives; people who are out in the world, who are users, who we don’t really know about yet, but who basically have skills and just want to show themselves off. That can be everything from a kid in Europe who has been shooting and just can’t get assignments to someone in South America who is just starting to do video work and needs a platform.” The product of collaborations with this third group will likely be housed on a platform the company hopes to reveal in March.
Of these groups, what brings the latter two together is a focus on diversity. “We get different body types and looks,” Smithers says of the film that gets turned in. That becomes evident, at least in part, in some of St. Amand’s contributions to the brand’s Instagram and will likely be even more so in the soon-to-be-revealed project the brand is working on with an artist out of Asia.
The project as a whole may seem ambitious, but as a global brand with an engaged audience, Grindr believes accomplishing it is possible, and the need for diversity is important. “There’s no way that you’re going to capture every single one of your constituents in an image but how do we provide, on a consistent basis, variety,” Smithers said of the questions the company posed to itself when getting started. “In many ways keeping things diverse is really where we’re focused.” And in stepping into a space where conversations like #GayMediaSoWhite are already taking place, diversity—particularly racial diversity—is all the more important.
Click here to order your copy of Home by Matt Lambert.