The Art of Friendship (Like, Actual Art)

You guys. There’s this photographer, Tanja Hollander, who is working on a project that is awesome. Trust me.

An article on Etsy’s blog explains it really well: “[Hollander has] taken camera in hand and is visiting each of her 626 Facebook friends, removing ‘virtual’ from their relationships and creating a portrait to document the moment.” The project is called “Are You Really My Friend? The Facebook Portrait Project.”

Hollander has her own blog where she posts the pictures, with vital stats like names, relationship and how long they’ve known each other. (Scroll through the first couple of posts to get to the pics and stats.) The portraits are fascinating in their honesty and intimacy. She captures her “friends” in their homes, looking like they normally would. This isn’t some fancy schmancy dolled up project. It’s real.

I’m especially intrigued, of course, because Hollander is exploring visually many of the questions that I’ve been exploring through writing. “It’s really an investigation into a question. What does it mean to be someone’s friend and how are we all connected?” she told Etsy. “There are different levels of friendship and they give you different things in different ways.”

title: Nora Donnelly, Allen & Nadine Bush, Roxbuy, Massachusetts date: 2011 relationship: friends, art, met at Hampshire College years known: Nora 20-25, Allen 10-15
Photo credit: Tanja Hollander

Scrolling through the pictures has made me think about what my own Facebook Portrait Project would look like. The youngest person would be, I think, 14 (my cousin) and the oldest would be, give or take, in her early-to-mid 70s (a friend of my mother-in-law). There would be people I’ve never met, and people I haven’t seen in over 15 years. And people I saw yesterday. It would take me to Hawaii, Paris, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. There would be an ex-boyfriend, ex-friends, and my husband’s ex-girlfriend. It would not take me to some of the closest people in my life, like my husband. It’s actually quite fascinating to think about. Sort of like that old show This is Your Life.

Check out the Etsy story and Tanja Hollander’s blog. When you start to imagine your own Facebook Portrait Project, it’ll most definitely make you re-examine the term “friend” and how we’ve begun to use it these days.

Do you think people are too loose, or generous, with the word friend? Has social networking devalued it? And what would your Facebook Portrait Project look like? Isn’t Hollander’s project great?

There’s a new, meaty, excerpt of MWF Seeking BFF up on Scribd.  It’s the entire introduction and first chapter. If you’re not sure about the book (or even if you are), check it out and see what you think! It’s the first 30 pages of the actual book, so you’ll see the awesome inside title page (my favorite page! Seriously.) and everything. And if you like it, maybe you’ll want to pre-order.

Thank you!


Filed under The Search

12 responses to “The Art of Friendship (Like, Actual Art)

  1. darby

    As a long time read of this blog and a photographer myself this project looks fascinating!

  2. Ooh, what a cool project! I like how the focus of the pictures isn’t just the friends, but also their homes. It’s like a little slice of these peoples’ lives.

    If I did this with my facebook friends, there’s some people on that list who I wouldn’t necessarily want to hang out with, so yeah, I’d say we use the term “friend” a little too loosely when it comes to social networking.

  3. anonymous

    Awesome! But I can’t get the links to work!

  4. Hi Rachel – Thanks for the awesome repost. I love getting feedback, hearing comments, etc. -Tanja

  5. What a neat project. Fascinating.
    BTW, pre-ordered your book yesterday. So excited to read it. And hope you stop in Scottsdale for your book tour. You have free room and board!

  6. I saw this article too! A lot of my friends I will be seeing next year at my husband’s family reunion on his dad’s side. He has a huge family and facebook is definitely a way we’ve all stayed close (that and his dad’s family is flipping fantastic!!!).

  7. This is such an awesome project and I, too, love the composition of the photographs and how relaxed and comfortable, un-posed everyone appears. I just wish I hadn’t seen this while I’m at work – now I’m utterly unproductive and stuck in voyeur mode!

  8. Great post, Rachel. I have been to work with Tanja to ask folks their take on what “friendship” means in this hyper-connected world. We are showcasing the results on the Tumblr linked here. Please let us know what you think.

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