Two years ago, Tanja Alexia Hollander sat at home writing a letter to a friend recently deployed to Afghanistan and simultaneously Facebook messaging another friend. She became curious about 21st century friendship after noticing how she embraced both old and new forms of communication to keep in touch. She began to explore how well she actually knew the 626 friends in her Facebook network, wondering “Am I really friends with all these people?” Hollander explains in greater detail:
I started to analyze my use of Facebook and the ‘friends’ I had accumulated in this online world. What I found were some people I hadn’t met in “real life;” a few people I was not speaking to in ‘real life’; ex lovers with new partners; ex-partners of friends; art dealers, curators and high school friends who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.
Hollander decided to find out the answer to her question by meeting each and every one of her friends and photographing them in their homes. Through fundraising efforts, she received the support to embark on her ambitious project dubbed The Facebook Portrait Project. A year in, she has been to over sixteen different states and has captured a third of her Facebook friends. Hollander is not just fascinated by the people who equate her sum total of 626 connections, she’s also very much interested in the worlds that shape their lives – the stories they share, the homes they inhabit, the food they consume, which become an all-around snapshot of American culture. Hollander describes her creative journey in her own words:
Despite its presence in our lives today, social networks cannot replicate human interaction. It is arguable, however, that the online environments we’ve created and the resulting reduction of human interaction has an impact on our relationships. We simultaneously live in a virtual social network space online while physically inhabiting the space of our home in the real world. My project is an exploration of friendships, the effects of social networks and the intimate places we call home.
Her show ’Are You Really My Friend?’ is currently on view at the Portland Museum of Art until June 17th. Check out some of her portraits from her incredible project below.