Two weeks ago, Brooklyn-based filmmaker Cody Clarke was casually flipping right and left on the popular hook-up app Tinder when he noticed a disturbing number of profile pictures of light-skinned women in travel gear posing with brown-skinned babies in (presumably) developing countries. He rejected five of these proposed love matches, then six, and then decided he should start posting their photos to Facebook and Tumblr.
“Humanitarians of Tinder” was born.
“I doubt they would grab those same pictures for a dating profile site. Obviously the original intent, is, ‘Hey, friends, look where I was,’” Clarke says. “If you see a lot of them in a row, it becomes a trend, and becomes a disgusting thing. It’s like they’re standing around props.”
Clarke hasn’t been the only one to document the rise of Internet-facing “voluntourist” photos, as they’re sometimes called. The “Gurl Goes to Africa” Tumblr started documenting Facebook photos of white American college students flaunting study-abroad experiences next to African locals as early as 2010. Tinder, of course, syncs to your Facebook profile. As a result, children are now popping up in mobile hook-up applications.
But it’s not just women who post photos of themselves with an outstretched, Michelangelo-like hand to confused babies, as Humanitarians of Tinder documents. Clarke’s just started receiving submissions of male Tinder humanitarians, too. Instead of posing with large cats, they choose other people’s children.
So far, Humanitarians of Tinder hasn’t offered up any written commentary on the pictures. “I’m mostly just archiving a phenomenon that’s occurring,” Clarke says.