Taking Facebook Photos to a New Level

Photos and Facebook go hand-in-hand, but portraits of more than 600 Facebook friends? Now that's a project.

Photos and Facebook go hand-in-hand, but portraits of more than 600 Facebook friends? Now that’s a project.

However, that’s exactly what photographer Tanja Hollander of Auburn, Maine, is undertaking with Are You Really My Friend? The Facebook Portrait Project, traveling around the country and the world in an attempt to photograph all 626 (at the start of the project) of her Facebook friends in their homes.

When her task is completed, it will result in a book, a photography exhibition, and all of her friends simultaneously changing their profile pictures to the portraits taken by Hollander.

From Hollander’s About the Project page:

I am in the process of photographing all 626 of my “friends” on Facebook in their homes all over the world. Looking at Facebook specifically, I am interested in how we define friendship and who we let into our private yet very public online lives. I am fascinated by how we have created online environments where we as a society are having fewer and fewer human interactions.

People use Facebook for many reasons; to stay connected with friends and family who live far away, to promote their art, to start revolutions. I am interested in the compilation of friends and what that means on a global level. There are a variety of people I know from all different aspects of my life that I am both curious to photograph, and also curious to see if they will buy into this project. There are also a variety of people that I am ambivalent to photograph, so many challenging questions arise from that, as well. What defines friendship? Who qualifies as a friend worthy of being photographed, especially if long-distance travel is involved? If someone declines my request to photograph them, are they really my friend? It is a very intimate act to photograph and be photographed, and to have an outsider in your home, let alone to be photographed in it. I also am intrigued by the logistics of mapping out locations all over the world and attempting to make as many portraits as I can.

I have traveled by plane, train, bus, car, bike, and on foot. I am surprised by the amount of people, especially (the real-life) total strangers, who have opened their homes to me, fed and drank me, showed me their cities/towns, introduced me to their friends, drove me around, and cheered me on. When I started on this project, I envisioned it being a very personal documentary. However, now almost 25 percent into it, I am struck by what I can only describe as human compassion — what I thought we had collectively lost by existing online is actually not lost at all. Much to my surprise, when Facebook is used in the way it was designed — to bring people together — I’m starting to believe it actually works.

At the end of the project, I am asking all of my friends to change their profile picture to the portrait I make of them, so Facebook then becomes the medium.

Hollander is funding the project with help from The Great Raffle of 2011, in which she is selling raffle tickets for the chance to win two framed photographs.

Readers: Would you take part in a similar project if approached by a Facebook friend?