Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sitting home alone on New Years Eve in 2010, Tanja Hollander Facebook chatted with her friend Sandeep in Jakarta, Indonesia, as she hand wrote a letter to her other friend Jed, who was deployed in Afghanistan.

By February, her idea had actualized: She would photograph her 626 Facebook friends in their homes around the world. With just $50 in her bank account, Hollander quit the first of three part-time jobs and applied for a grant to begin what would become the largest undertaking in her career is a photographer, The Facebook Portrait Project.

A year and a half later, after quitting three part-time jobs, she’s captured images of 252 friends in 15 U.S. states. You can see images of the “A” through “C” names in the below gallery and her complete work on Google+. She’s covered most of the Eastern Seaboard, Texas and New Orleans. Her furthest trips from her home in Auburn, Maine took her to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“The thing that’s really exciting to me is the way social media can enhance our real life relationships,”

Hollander says. “I’m making much more of an effort to learn more about people. All these people have really interesting stories and do really interesting things.”

Hollander had never met many of her Facebook friends before, so she was curious to see how their first real life encounters would go.

“I thought people I hadn’t met before in real life would be the hardest and they ended up being some great new friends — that was so shocking,” she says.

Much to her delight, her “non-friends” — professional acquaintances and friends-of-friends — have ended up being some of her favorite subjects to photograph. She recalls sharing gumbo in New Orleans with a friend of her parents’ son, having keys to a professional contact’s apartment given to her during a stay in Houston and connecting with another female photographer whose work she had long admired in Los Angeles.

Home-cooked meals, red wine, and heated arguments about politics and art — all ingredients Hollander considers integral to friendship and community — have pervaded throughout her visits with Facebook connections.