Fabiana Sala is a New York City-based photographer whose work focuses on the relationships and interactions among people living in the city. Her ongoing project, About Love, chronicles her personal experiences navigating the world of online dating.
BuzzFeed News spoke with Sala on the meaning behind these images and how the project developed for her.
"The series begins with a statement that captures the sentiment of the work:
Love and relationships in the age of dating apps.
Have we turned into sexual freelancers?
It seems we cannot expect anything to be long term anymore.
Lack of understanding, incertitude, doubt: a generational discomfort.
These people are mostly strangers I met on dating apps or in nightlife situations. About Love is based on the necessity to feel something when you have the sensation you will never feel again. Pain, despair: a modern nightmare. SWIPE. It is a strange practice to look for someone who could fill the void that we experience in our own soul. When we feel alone in the crowd of New York City (or wherever we may be) we look for a sign that we are not alone, that we share the same struggles, that we are alive."
"I was in a particular period of my life when I could not feel anything. At the time I was reading Zygmunt Bauman and experiencing what he describes as 'liquid love' — being caught between the need for both security and freedom, something that many of generation can relate to.
After moving to New York City in 2014, I went through a devastating breakup and I had to rehab from an unhealthy relationship, which sucked all my energies. I have never loved someone in that way and I felt completely empty, devastated. I experienced, for the first time in my life, a strong feeling of emptiness, and I had to face my fear of loneliness.
As a young woman, I have faced the pressures that grew as I became more conscious of the world around me, and I realized it is a universal feeling unaffected by the boundaries created by cultures, religion, education, or background. Somehow I needed to find out what the meaning of love was, how people were connecting in the mess of New York City, and how they were used to facing solitude and emptiness."
"One day a friend of mine told me, 'Hey, don't you know that everybody in New York City is using Tinder? Wake up! Nobody has time here and this is the faster way to get what you need!' I was shocked and extremely curious. I downloaded it. That is how this project really began. It began from a personal discomfort. It was a particular moment in my life where I was completely lost and I was looking for answers. I turned my discomfort into a visual diary — it was a sort of therapy.
When I started this project I was really critical and I was thinking the whole Tinder phenomenon was a terrible thing. It has created a generation of sex-obsessed commitment-phobes. It's all a matter of options — and who wants to choose when you know that you can always find something better?
One day I read an article in the New York Times talking about the fact that most of the men on Tinder are using a corporate language to chat girls up, which made perfect sense to my project. I find it fascinating how Tinder applies the logic of capitalism to courtship — the whole mechanism is determined mainly by competition in a free market full of perfect profiles.
It's also fascinating how the Tinder phenomenon is changing the language itself. 'Hanging out' versus 'dating' is the clearest example of what I am talking about. Anyways, I still have the same opinion but I have to admit that Tinder is a positive thing for people who have difficulties in relating to the others. Without the fear of being refused, people can be more secure and comfortable in relationships."
"I have learned a lot during the course of this project. I have learned about myself, about how crucial it is to follow your instincts and not to feel ashamed of your personal choices. Sexuality is still a taboo, and people easily judge you if you have an unconventional life. Moralism and respectability are still alive in our society and they must be fought. Most of the people I've met during these years weren't ashamed of their habits and it helped me to see things in a different way, to be more open-minded. Tinder is not the way to find The One, of course — we need to be open and honest about who we are and what we want from someone.
In terms of following up with my subjects, I am not really in touch with most of them — it's how it works. I would love to keep working on this project but I don't know in which form yet. I am not in that state of mind anymore and it wouldn't be the same thing. About Love is a sort of a diaristic project — it's real, it shows how things are in the bohemian circle of Tinder dates that I found myself in."