All images have been published with the photographer’s permission.
Meet Sean Fader, the artist who signed up for sixteen gay online dating sites and went on 100 dates in one year. It was a photography project called “Sup?” that ended up consuming most of his life, at least for 365 days. Each date went something like this:
1. Sean finds an intriguing guy online and visits him at his apartment. The two have never met. Sean arranges a portrait based on his preconceived ideas of who this guy might be according to his Internet dating profile. He costumes this dude, arranges the furniture, lighting, etc.
2. Sean actually dates this person.
3. They collaborate on a second photo, one that they both agree depicts this person as his authentic IRL self.
Each pair of Sean’s photos illustrates the absurdity of judging people through the pixelated curtain of social media. The differences between the two photos are fascinating. In one set of photos, a baseball-cap-wearing bro morphs into Eros in pointy shoes, hands above his head on a bare mattress covered in embroidered flowers.
The project is about self-portraiture’s importance/distortion in the digital age. According to a description of the project’s current exhibition at the University of Illinois, ‘Sup “uses the uneasy agreement, seemingly implicit between sitter and photographer, to focus on the disjunction between how one appears to oneself and how one appears to others.” And there are bits of text between the photos, too. Excerpts from messages sent via Grindr, Manhunt, OKCupid, Dudesnude, and the other dating sites Sean used. They’re poetic: “Handsome freak with a big heart. I am an art weirdo. I don’t sleep with just anybody. I like to dress like I do.” They make you realize how beautiful a text can be, and how sexy we sometimes are when we hide behind screens.
Sean went on his dating odyssey in 2010, and his photos erupted on The Huffington Post and Slate last summer and earlier this year, respectively. One of his dates posed for a full-frontal nude portrait the first time they met (it’s up at Slate).
This isn’t Sean’s first time turning his life into an art project. Recently, at New York City’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show Sean invited strangers to make a wish upon his chest hair. The project, “#wishingpelt,” welcomes visitors to run their hands across Sean’s woolly pecs as they whisper a wish in his ear, as if he’s “a roving Blarney Stone, or a queer wishing well” (he will do it again at Pulse Art Fair in NYC from May 8-11). Before that, he turned his friends into bodysuits.
“Sup?” is on view at the University of Illinois through April 10. More information here. Check it.