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Tanja Hollander's photo project examines real vs. Facebook friendships

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Maine-based photographer Tanja Hollander traveled around the world to meet and photograph all of her Facebook "friends."

Maine-based photographer Tanja Hollander has more than 600 "friends" on Facebook. Having 600 so-called friends got her thinking: "How many of these people are really  my buddies?"

To answer that question she decided to travel around the world to meet and photograph each and every one of them. Some of them she knew very well, others she had never met before.

All the pictures are now part of a collection called "Are You Really My Friend?" 

Interview Highlights:

On how her quest to photograph her 626 Facebook friends began:

“I think it started out as a really personal investigation into what friendship is and what all of these people and this social network called Facebook are. And if they were really close to me or if we shared anything in common, or what we did share. And was it possible that I was really friends with 626 people.”

On the difference between common Facebook photos and Hollander’s photos:

“This project started out as a photography project. My background is photography, it’s not social media and it’s not the snapshot aesthetic. So they’re really formal delicate portraits, I think.”

On her approach to contact and then photograph her Facebook friends:

“I sent an email saying, ‘I know this is going to sound strange, but I’m working on this project and are you willing to participate? I would love to meet you in real life, we have this in common.’”

On the reaction Hollander has encountered from the people she has met throughout the journey thus far:

“Once I showed up and we started talking, we actually had a lot in common. I mean, there was a reason that we were Facebook friends to begin with. And I have actually found that the real life strangers have almost been the most generous and kind to me in opening up their homes and feeding me, than some of my closest friends who refuse to be part of it.”

On her stipulation of why some her real friends refused to partake in the project:

“A couple people have said privacy, which is interesting because they’re on Facebook to begin with. It really took me back at first. I thought I had upset people or like we had gotten in a fight that I didn’t know about, because sometimes that happens. I had shot my mouth off or something. But, I think its just that some people don’t want that kind of intimacy online, because its very intimate to have somebody in your living room with a camera.”

On life lessons that can be gleaned from social media sites, such as Facebook:

“You know, I started really cynical. There’s no way that all these people are my friends. And I think I accidentally discovered Facebook has value, which is weird because it wasn’t something that I planned on happening. And I think that we are all really connected and want to know what’s going on in each other’s lives and want to have real life interactions. And for me, its just enhanced those real life things.”
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