I was in my mid-20s when the rock band I was in, Young Guns, started to become successful. We went to San Francisco to record our album, and one night a mutual friend introduced me to a girl called Jenn. We connected instantly: you know when you just know – there was something about her. I had no idea when we met that she was a vlogger and fashion influencer with millions of followers.
Soon after we met, Jenn flew to London. On our first proper date we went for a picnic at Alexandra Palace – that was the first time she asked me to take a photo of her. I felt a bit of pressure; I wanted to get it right as I was very focused on trying to make her fall in love with me.
Not long after that, we started going out. I appeared in a Meet My Boyfriend video on her fashion YouTube channel, Clothes Encounters. We answered questions from her fans, like what nicknames we call each other. At the time, I pretty much had no idea what YouTube was but it felt great to know she wanted to show me off.
She continued to ask me to take photos of her whenever we met. We were dating, but she was also creating content for her channels. I was living in my own bubble and barely used Instagram, but I knew how to take a good photo: I was mainly focused on her being in frame, pressing the right button and making sure there wasn’t a massive trash can next to her. Then I started to focus on the angles, as I’d taken a few wonky ones. I didn’t really think much of it at the time, I just thought I was helping.
The more trips I went on as a plus one, the more photos I was taking. I slipped into becoming what they call “an Instagram boyfriend”, a romantic partner of an influencer who ends up taking all the photos and videos they post. It was difficult at times; there were moments when Jenn had had a long day and it was stressful, and I messed up a lot while learning. It’s not uncommon for influencer couples to do this: 95% of the time, when a guy is dating an influencer he will end up being her videographer. It’s really appealing; you get to shoot for your girl, be a plus one, go on incredible trips and learn a new craft.
By the time I was 30, I wanted to try something new. I quit the band, packed my bags and moved to LA. Once I got there, I realised I had all this influencer experience. As well as shooting videos for Jenn, I started working with other influencers and brands.
It’s not always going to be perfect when you’re working and having a personal relationship; you’ve got to maintain some separation. We achieved that when I started finding my own path and working with other brands not connected to Jenn’s work.
I’m fine with her being my boss. Jenn has always been relatively reserved; it’s not like we wake up with a camera in our faces like some YouTubers. She doesn’t like everyone knowing everything.
In 2016, I secretly shot a video for her YouTube channel of my marriage proposal. It started out with two cameras in our favourite hotel, then went up to 10. I wanted to have a permanent document of this memory, and for our families and friends abroad. My cover was nearly blown several times, especially when the hotel receptionist spotted me from the day before and thought I was having an affair.
The Jenn Im Instagram account has 1.7 million followers, and her YouTube has 275m overall views. I can see why the money that comes with being an influencer tempts people but, even though I use Instagram now, it’s not really for me. I don’t go to events with Jenn any more, because it’s the same thing every time: people go to 10 parties in one night just to show they’ve been there, rather than enjoying themselves.
I don’t want to be in front of the camera much; I hate having my photo taken. The photo above is a self-portrait, taken when I was doing a test shot for Jenn. These are the only photos I take.
I’m terrified for when we have kids, because this world is becoming more competitive. There’s a constant pressure to maintain your social media. I hate the fact that people think you’ve disappeared off the planet if you don’t post. I find the opposite is true: real life starts when the camera switches off.
• As told to Kyle McNeil
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