A photographer recently completed a project that involved setting herself the task of taking a portrait of all 626 of her Facebook friends from across the globe.
The idea for the project came about when Tanja Hollander found herself conversing with two different friends via varying forms of communication. She was writing handwritten letters to a friend deployed in Afghanistan whilst also instant messaging a friend in Jakarta. She began thinking about the various ways in which we can communicate in the digital age, and thus, the project was born. She says she began to wonder “what Facebook had done to corporatize friendship, but also bring friends together.”
She set out to explore what friendship means in the days of social media, inevitably traveling the world to meet all of her Facebook friends in person. “I had wonderful experiences with people I was not really close to, and not-so-great experiences with people I was really close to,” she said.
Where the project gets interesting is that some of her Facebook friends — as is probably the case with most of us — she had never met in person before.
The only rule she applied to the series was that each person was to be photographed inside their own home, in the environment they lived in every day.
Photographing people in their homes…that was me trying to understand what a friend was. Because to me, the home is as important to defining who you are as any kind of emotional definition. You were introduced to their friends and their families. You saw what books or art they had, or lack of books or art. The little objects they surround themselves with.
As the project progressed, she also began requesting her subjects define what they felt it meant to be a “real friend.” They gave answers from “trustworthy” and “there for me” to the rather specific “a person who buys a flight home the moment they learn of a death in your family.”
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is currently displaying the project. Hollander has even kept memorabilia from the project as proof, including boarding passes, tickets, email receipts and notes she amassed along the way.
All images courtesy of Tanja Hollander.