If you would take your profile pics from your LinkedIn and Tinder accounts and put them next to each other, how would they differ? That is the central question of Belgian artist Dries Depoorter’s project Tinder In. Using his own Tinder profile, he collected pictures of random women within his radius, and used their names to subsequently look up their LinkedIn profile pictures. Depoorter is planning to exhibit the series in a gallery in Paris soon in the form of ten double portraits: the professional and somewhat stiff headshots of LinkedIn on the left, and the intimate, often scantily-clad Tinder shots on the right.
At first glance, the project seems a bit like public shaming: look at these women struggling with themselves, their image, their sexuality. There is a sense of discomfort to see these pictures side by side, firstly for the women in the photos (why is the project limited to just women?), but secondly, also for yourself. Everyone is ‘guilty’ of these split online personalities simply because every online platform demands something entirely different from yourself. A business network site and an online hookup app will understandably lead to the biggest contrast.
Speaking to Depoorter on the phone, it soon becomes obvious he himself is quiet uncertain how this project will play out. “No, these women do not know they’re part of the project. I didn’t ask their permission,” he says. “I know it’s a bit bad, but I could not resist. I’m getting a bit worried, actually. I’ve published six photos so far, and I’m expecting an email of one of the girls demanding the photos to be taken offline.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Depoorter reveals a project like this. The artist is known for artworks that test the boundaries of digital privacy, both for himself and his ‘subjects.’ For his project Trojan Offices, he collected the public webcams of random offices around the world and displayed the live images as a video installation at multiple art festivals. For Here, the artist gave up his own privacy in the form of a Google Maps-website showing his whereabouts at any given moment. And for his upcoming project Jaywalking, which was revealed at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam in November, he hacked traffic webcams in different countries to show live images of intersections. Every time someone jaywalks, you get the choice: do you rat out the jaywalker by sending the image to the local police, or do you buy a print of the screenshot for the price of the fine in that country?
Tinder In, thus, fits his oeuvre perfectly. “My work for the last couple of years has mostly been about privacy, and what it means for young people," he explains. "I kinda feel guilty about this project, but on the on the other hand: these photos are publicly available. It just gets weird when you put them next to each other.” For Depoorter, the project is not so much about the pictures or people in question, but more about how each platform dictates the way we present ourselves on it. “On LinkedIn you come across all these neat business shirt photos, often against a white background, typically made in a professional photo shoot done specifically for interviews. On Tinder you see party pics and holiday photos showing a lot more skin. Women show of their cleavage, men pick photos in which their muscles show.”
Next to that, Depoorter wants to show how easy it has become to collect vast amounts of information about someone online. “Tinder has introduced this feature not long ago where you can connect your account to your Instagram-account. Even if your Instagram-account is set to private, you can still see your profile through Tinder. It’s this weird bug I discovered, or maybe it is done knowingly, like you can use Tinder to check out someone’s private Instagram account just for this one time only. That feature made it really easy for me to collect the full names of people. On Tinder you only see someone’s first name, but on Instagram basically everyone uses their full name.”
Since he published the series on his website last month, Depoorter has had his fair share of criticism. He sends some screenshots of the angry comments he received so far. Next to questioning the legality of the project, they mainly focus on the fact that the first three images he published all depicted women, saying the project is therefore sexist. “That’s not what I intend with this series at all. The only reason they were women is because I used my own Tinder profile to collect them, so I only got women. For the full series I want to include men as well. The first two are already published."
When I ask him what his own profile pics look like, he laughs. “I’m just as cliché. I am not doing this project because I feel like I'm above these people, on the contrary. That is why I’ve decided to include myself in this series as well, because I’m doing the exact same thing.”
For all the ladies (and gentlemen) out there who would rather not become part of Depoorter’s art project, this is what he looks like. “I still need one more person for this series of ten, so I’m gonna go onto Tinder now.”
Keep up with Dries Depoorter's work on his website.