Reece Pickering- 20/07/15
Photography had brought me to a commission in Vancouver, Canada on March 22nd. With a meetup with a stranger so random, I hadn’t yet developed the photographs to prove it, until now.
The first thing you might think is that I headed straight to a Canucks game, drank copious amounts of maple syrup; or wander along photographing portraits of residents on the most dangerous street in North America (all of which I did).
But the rain had kept our lenses indoors, little time was spent in the sun; most time was spent hiding in the hotel room researching projects or eating as many $1 wedges from 7-Eleven whilst waiting to be called to the commission. Our room did have a great view of the BC Stadium though.
I had shared a hotel room at the YWCA with four of my colleagues for ten days, and then discovered this wondrous app known to west yet not to me; it was called ‘Tinder’.
For those not in the know like myself at the time, Tinder is a dating application which drags 20-somethings from all around your location into a convenient sorting system in which you swipe left to ‘dislike’ and right to ‘like’.
I have never felt inclined to use the app, nor have I ever intended to, as my preferences were to speak face to face with people, who weren’t likely to be serial killers or have fetishes for piercing my nipples for me (you would be surprised what goes on); but that stack of 7-Eleven wedges in the hotel bin were beginning to decay and nobody had tipped the maid, so I start swiping.
Filtering left through the foundation-clad clutter in Vancouver, I notice a friendly looking Asian woman named Michelle; ‘dictionary definition of friends’ says her bio; so I swipe right.
This is perfect for me as my whole concept of a photographer is to keep making new friends, one could say it’s a necessity in my skill set.
Before I knew it, I was stood at the apartment door within the building that Michelle had given me only hours before when we had started chatting. I had my disposable Fujifilm Finepix colour film camera with me, taking shots of the building almost prepping myself for forensics to develop the photographs and discover the place I had been lured into; after they discovered my mangled body. The hallway looked like the same dank, dark corridor in The Watchmen, right before the Joker is thrown out the window of the complex. Furnished but freaky.
But when I wrapped my knuckles on the door and primed my Fuji ready to strike, Michelle answered with an excited smile and invited me in. After that, she became known as ‘Girlboss’ after seeing a copy of the book by Sophia Amoruso when I first walked in.
Michelle has that Zen-like state, of freedom and all things cultural. I realised this when I was only one of three meet-ups via Tinder that day alone. She had pencilled me in between her 2:30pm coffee and her 6pm dinner. I felt privileged.
Our day involved all things alternative to a regular hangout with a stranger, like Tarot cards (to which I was dealt the worst three), then Yoga (to which she described I wasn’t very flexible, prompting the proceeding months to be filled with morning Yoga until the day a woman would deem me flexible again) finishing with her soloing the guitar; of course it wouldn’t be a hipster meet-up without a guitar solo.
That was when I began to learn just how generous Canadians were.
After I had told her about the insane week’s shooting in Vancouver, I told her about my even more hectic living arrangements with four other guys. ‘Sounds mad’, she said ‘would you like a bath?’ This strange request would prompt anything but friendship in British culture (or rom my personal experiences at least).
So I did the right thing, and kindly agreed.
Before I could ask for a towel, Michelle had taken the liberty to plaster me a mint face mask on; cooked me gluten free banana bread, and fashioned up a kale smoothie for me.
Michelle had confirmed every healthy lifestyle cliché box that I had expected from a city like Vancouver; and I was loving it.
I laid in the lukewarm water for the best part of half an hour, accompanied by Michelle’s relaxation playlist she had played under the door with her IPhone.
Not once did I protest, and as I laid there; eyes covered in mint scrub and feeling relaxed from my everyday grind of a routine I laughed at the notion that I had earned all of this, just by swiping right.
Of course by telling my room mates that days events, I ran the risk of being portrayed as some serial-healthy lifestyle freak who would break into strangers apartments to pamper myself.
So, that night I took them all for sushi.
I hadn’t ran the risk of meeting a friend like Michelle again, for safety reasons within the UK and have ever since swiped left; and proceeded to delete Tinder.
For now I will stick to mundane dates in restaurants or cinemas, the generic stuff…