This Is What Finding Love Online Looks Like

Behold
The Photo Blog
March 18 2014 11:04 AM

This Is What Finding Love Online Looks Like

Mariela and Tiago, Tattoodatingsite.com Mariela is a 21-year-old self-taught photographer who moved to New York in December of 2011 from the Dominican Republic. Tiago is a 30-year-old who has worked as a finishing carpenter since he was a kid. They found one another in cyberspace thanks to their shared love of tattoos. Their initial contact began on tattoodatingsite.com. “[The name] is that blunt,” stated Mariela. “When you go there, you think it’s a spam website.” Mariela thought that Tiago was cute. They began talking on Skype and then met in person. On their second date they shared some ink time together. Tiago got a previous piece polished off, while Mariela received a eye onto her forearm. After just two weeks of dating, they moved in together. After four months, they got engaged. Now the two share matching tattoos. “We both have [the word] ‘love’ tattooed in our hands.”
Mariela and Tiago, Tattoodatingsite.com. Mariela is a self-taught photographer who moved to New York in 2011 from the Dominican Republic. Tiago has worked as a finishing carpenter since he was a kid. After just two weeks of dating, they moved in together. After four months, they got engaged. Now the two share matching tattoos. “We both have [the word] ‘love’ tattooed in our hands.”

Jena Cumbo

It wasn’t long ago that online dating—and admitting you were dating someone you met online—was a taboo subject. Couples who met online would defer questions about how they met or even make up a story far less scandalous than meeting “anonymously” over the Internet. Clearly that isn’t the case anymore.

A little more than a year ago, photographer Jena Cumbo began photographing couples who had met online for a project she calls “We Met on the Internet.” Cumbo said the initial idea behind the project was to make pictures that were a commentary about modern life. Since the Internet is a vehicle for connection, she said it was a natural progression for dating, especially since connections are now readily available via smartphones. “I think Internet accessibility and the sheer number of people online everyday has to do with why Internet dating isn’t the same little dirty secret anymore,” she said. In fact, Cumbo said she met a boyfriend on Friendster in 2004, and although they’re no longer together romantically, they’re still friends today.

Nikki and Malliha, InstagramIt started with a photo on Instagram. 27 year old Nikki saw a photograph of 28 year old Malliha. “It wasn’t just that she was pretty and beautiful. It was just an amazing photo. I was taken aback.” She saved the photo and used it as the screensaver on her tablet. “I would see this picture everyday I would get on my tablet.” Oddly, on a hair themed blog Nikki saw Malliha again. She didn’t realize it was the same person because Malliha had sunglasses on in her Instagram photo. Nikki added Malliha on Instagram after seeing her on the hair blog.Malliha wrote a comment on one of Nikki’s pictures. Malliha thought if Nikki didn’t write back she would call it a day. Nikki didn’t respond, because she didn’t see the comment. On her own, Nikki liked one of Malliha’s Instagrams. Nikki, was getting ready to attend an event. She saw that Malliha was also attending. “We linked at the event and from there we hit it off,” Malliha said. Nikki didn’t realize she was dating the girl from her screensaver until one day when Malliha showed Nikki a bunch of her photos.
Nikki and Malliha, Instagram. Nikki saw a photograph of Malliha on Instagram and used it as the screensaver on her tablet. On a hair-themed blog, Nikki saw Malliha again and attempted to reach out, not realizing she was the same person. They eventually met in person at an event and hit it off. Nikki didn’t realize she was dating the woman from her screensaver until one day when Malliha showed Nikki a bunch of her photos.

Jena Cumbo

Donna and Jesse, AOL Chat  Donna doesn’t remember which AOL chat room she met Jesse in back in 1997. But, she does remember his screen name. “It had ‘47 in and I thought maybe he’s around the same age as me because my birthday is in June of ‘47. That’s why I said hello.” They were the same age. The now 66 year olds spoke over email and phone for about 5 months. “We decided to meet at the mall in Syracuse. I figured that was pretty safe.”D
Donna and Jesse, AOL Chat. Donna doesn’t remember which AOL chat room she met Jesse in back in 1997, but she does remember his screen name. “It had '47 in and I thought maybe he’s around the same age as me. ... That’s why I said hello,” Donna said. The two spoke over email and phone for about five months before meeting in a mall in Syracuse, N.Y.

Jena Cumbo

Lily and David, JDateIf it weren’t for Lily’s meddling mother, she would have never met her husband. The now 28 year old Lily was living a life of “sexual liberation.” She had a different guys in her life that filled different needs for her, one for an ego-boost, the ex-boyfriend, the boyfriend potential, the guy next door, the coworker. She was also partying heavily at the time. Lily was “perfectly happy” with this. Her mother on the other hand, wasn’t. Her mother always wanted Lily to get married to a nice rich Jewish doctor. Her mother set up a JDate profile for Lily. “It had a picture from my high school yearbook.” The profile stated that Lily was a non-smoker and didn’t drink very much. Basically the profile was loaded with lies. Lily went on a few dates her mother set up for her, all of which she claims were horrifying.
Lily and David, JDate. Lily's mother set up a JDate profile for Lily. The profile was loaded with lies, Lily said, but she went on a few dates her mother set up for her. She was going to close the account when her mom connected her with David. “I didn’t want my mother to be right,” she admitted. Lily and David have been married for two years.

Jena Cumbo

Cumbo started the project by taking photographs of friends who she knew met their boyfriends or girlfriends online. In a somewhat meta turn, she then began to post ads on Craigslist and other sites in search of more couples. About her aesthetic, Cumbo said she likes to photograph the couples in their space. “I think it says more about them to be surrounded by their things. When that’s not possible, I photograph them somewhere they like to go together,” she said.

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One of her favorite shots is of Mariela and Tiago. “They were basically just standing together, and then the dog licked Tiago’s face, and I caught it,” she recalled. “They share a lot of animals together, so I feel like their dog is very much a part of who they are as a couple.”

So far, apart from a few couples here and there, Cumbo has only photographed people in the New York City area. She’s hoping to develop the series by shifting the focus toward the middle of America and also to find people who aren’t living in urban environments.

Rain and Nelson, Facebook poke 19-year-old Rain and 24-year-old Nelson’s relationship blossomed from a Facebook poke. “Why the hell do I have a poke from a random person?” Rain reflected. He messaged Nelson, and they talked over the site for a month and a half. It turned into a date. They went to dinner, and liked each other right away. They began doing movie marathons together. “Some nights it would be girly night for me where I would put on chick flicks and other nights he would choose the manly movies.” Nelson has a daughter from a previous heterosexual relationship. Rain says the daughter was a big factor in them getting along so well. Rain now helps care for the child. Despite being in "crazy" relationships in the past, they found their connection to be easy.
Rain and Nelson, Facebook poke. “Why the hell do I have a [Facebook] poke from a random person?” Rain recalled wondering. He messaged Nelson, and talking on the site eventually turned into a date. They liked each other right away. Nelson has a daughter from a previous relationship. Rain says Nelson's daughter was a big factor in them getting along so well.

Jena Cumbo

Taylor and Jonathan, Grindr Love sprouts from the darkest of places sometimes. 22-year-old model and photographer Taylor and 21-year-old Bumble and Bumble hair stylist Jonathan met on Grindr, a site known for gay hookups. “It’s so bad. I know,” admits Taylor. “I had actually never used [the site] before. I had literally got it for the sole purpose of showing my hetero friends how disgusting the gay world can be. So I guess I kind of proved myself wrong.”Taylor’s profile caught Jonathan’s eye. “He stood out because he wasn’t some chunky looking Chelsea guy. I just kind of knew that we would hit it off, whether it be [as] friends or if we were to date,” said Jonathan.
Taylor and Jonathan, Grindr. Model and photographer Taylor and Bumble and Bumble hair stylist Jonathan met on Grindr, a site known for gay hookups. Taylor’s profile caught Jonathan’s eye. “He stood out because he wasn’t some chunky-looking Chelsea guy. I just kind of knew that we would hit it off, whether it be [as] friends or if we were to date,” said Jonathan.

Jena Cumbo

Jay and Ashley, plenty of fish.com  28 year old Jay has always had a thing for German and Italian girls. He came across 26 year old Ashley’s profile on Plenty Of Fish. Ashley is both Italian and German. “ I thought she was very pretty,” admitted Jay. “I was intrigued.” He was particularly drawn I by her eyes.  Ashley said she also loved Jay’s eyes. “I wanted to start of slow,” she said of his initial message to her. “He was polite and all that, and I liked his tattoos so I was hoping it would turn out romantically.”
Jay and Ashley, PlentyOfFish.com. “I thought she was very pretty,” Jay said. “I was intrigued.” He was particularly drawn in by her eyes. Ashley said she also loves Jay’s eyes. “I wanted to start off slow,” she said. “He was polite and all that, and I liked his tattoos, so I was hoping it would turn out romantically.”

Jena Cumbo

Last year she began to work with writer Gina Tron, who began interviewing the couples Cumbo had photographed and creating brief write-ups about them. The captions listed with each couple’s photo are edited from Tron’s words. Cumbo and Tron are currently trying to publish a book of the work that includes both the images and the interviews. They are looking for a publisher.

The series has received a lot of attention since Cumbo began sharing it. She said that although reaction has been mostly positive, there have been “a few mean comments from homophobic idiots, but that doesn’t discourage me at all.” She has been surprised by all of the attention and feels it is probably because of the project’s upbeat tone. “I think people respond well to my project because it’s a good example of how the Internet can be great and super helpful,” she said.

Giavanna and David, Write a Prisoner .com Back in 2011, 25 year-old Giovanni started writing to 37 year old David, who was incarcerated at the time. She was living 45 minutes from San Francisco and he was in a California prison. She wasn’t on the site looking for romance, more of a penpal relationship. “I thought it would be cool to do it from an objective view.” She said that David’s profile stood out among the “scary” and often deceptive inmate profiles. She told me that it didn’t surprise any of her family and friends that she joined the site, because it was “something she would do.”David was sentenced to ten years in prison for a white-collar crime. “I used to work as a computer programmer. It was one of the fraud cases that was really, really prominent in the early 2,000’s.” He served nine years.
Giavanna and David, WriteAPrisoner.com. Back in 2011, Giovanna started writing to David, who was incarcerated at the time. She wasn’t on the site looking for romance but for a pen-pal relationship. She said that David’s profile stood out among the “scary” and often deceptive inmate profiles. David was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a white-collar crime. “I used to work as a computer programmer. It was one of the fraud cases that was really, really prominent in the early 2000s,” David said.

Jena Cumbo

Katharine and David, MySpace David and Katharine did not meet on a dating site. Rather, they bonded on Myspace over weight loss in 2006. Katharine had just moved to Boston and did an area search. She came across David, now 36, who mentioned on his profile that he had recently lost a lot of weight. Katharine, now 33, had also lost a considerable amount of weight.“I had recently run into some friends from college [at the time] and they made me feel kind of crappy.” They gave her, what she felt to be “backhanded compliments” about it. She initiated conversation with David by asking if he felt the same. He did. “We chatted about our experiences with weight loss and commiserated. They emailed a few times a day back and forth for a week and then David asked Katharine out. “I still remember seeing her in her orange coat and she looked very pretty.”
Katharine and David, MySpace. David and Katharine bonded on MySpace over weight loss in 2006. Katharine had just moved to Boston, did an area search on MySpace, and came across David, who mentioned on his profile that he had lost a lot of weight. Katharine had also lost a considerable amount of weight. They emailed a few times a day back and forth for a week and then David asked Katharine out. “I still remember seeing her in her orange coat, and she looked very pretty,” David said.

Jena Cumbo

Donna and John, yahoo personals Donna and John, yahoo personals...She randomly contacted John one weekend. “I was like, maybe I’ll give that guy a call.” John invited her to a movie, Saving Grace. They explained to one another what they looked like. John waited for Donna on the steps of the theatre. “This one woman started heading right towards me and I thought, ‘No. Please no. Don’t let this be her.’” But that woman kept walking past John. As soon as he caught his breath, “Donna came bouncing up the stairs. I was very pleased.” He says he was very attracted to her and struggled to keep cool. “I was nervous. I accidentally bumped her knee a couple times.”
Donna and John, Yahoo Personals. Donna contacted John one weekend. John invited her to a movie. John said he was very attracted to her and struggled to keep cool. “I was nervous. I accidentally bumped her knee a couple times,” he said.

Jena Cumbo

Cora and Will, Craigslist Free Stuff  Cora and Will met on Craigslists, but not on the dating section. Instead they met on the “free stuff” section. “I Just moved to New York and didn't have any furniture. Plus I hardly knew anybody in NY. Will posted free movie tickets that he won online.” Cora e-mailed Will about the tickets and he wrote back. In the signature of his email was a link to his graphic art and illustration website. She complimented his work which initiated a Skype conversation about art and why she moved. A week later Will texted Cora because he was going to her Flatbush, Brooklyn neighborhood for a family party. They agreed to meet at a coffee shop. Cora waited for fifty minutes, and almost left, before Will arrived. “: I actually had to run most of the way to meet her because I took a cab that got stuck in traffic. I got out of it early and ended up walking in the wrong direction.”
Cora and Will, Craigslist Free Stuff. Cora and Will met on Craigslist, but not on the dating section. “I just moved to New York and didn't have any furniture. Plus, I hardly knew anybody in N.Y. Will posted free movie tickets that he won online,” Cora said. Cora emailed Will about the tickets and he wrote back. A week later they agreed to meet at a coffee shop. Cora waited for 50 minutes and almost left before Will arrived. “I actually had to run most of the way to meet her because I took a cab that got stuck in traffic. I got out of it early and ended up walking in the wrong direction,” Will said. They now have two children.

Jena Cumbo

Corianna and David, Craigslist David put up an ad on Craiglists in the “man for woman” section in October 2013. He was looking for somebody to watch a Red Sox game with. Corianna was looking on Craigslist one evening after “a few glasses of wine.” David’s ad stuck out to her because they were neighbors. They both lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She emailed him, he emailed her back, and then she froze up. She feared it was a potentially dangerous idea, so she ignored him. When she didn’t respond to his email, David first assumed “that maybe she never saw it. I liked her initial response and she was in my neighborhood so I sent her another email telling her about myself.” That move helped Corianna feel more comfortable, so they decided to meet up. Before watching the game, they had dinner. “There was definitely a spark from the moment we met,” David said.
Corianna and David, Craigslist. David put up an ad on Craiglist looking for somebody to watch a Red Sox game with. Corianna was on Craigslist one evening after “a few glasses of wine.” She emailed him, he emailed her back, and then she froze up. David sent her another email telling her about himself, which helped Corianna feel more comfortable, so they decided to meet. “There was definitely a spark from the moment we met,” David said.

Jena Cumbo

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