Woman travels the world to photograph her 678 Facebook friends

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Vicky Philpott

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23rd Jun 2013
Written by: Victoria Philpott

Woman travels the world to photo her 678 Facebook friends

How many of yours do you really know? 

With nearly 700 Facebook friends Maine-based photographer Tanja Hollander decided it was time to travel the world and photograph them all in their homes.

The project Are You Really My Friend?’ saw Hollander get out in the world armed with a camera to find the answer. Some ‘friends’ she’d never actually met in person before so the epic quest was a chance to seal the Facebook friend request in the real world.

Are you really my friend?

The idea sprouted on New Year’s Eve 2010 while she was sitting at home and hand-writing a letter to a friend serving in Afghanistan while talking on Facebook to another pal in Jakarta. The contrast in means of communication made her think about her on and offline relationships and that the two should meet in a meaningful way.

It's taken two years, but Hollander has taken formal portraits of nearly 300 of her now 678 Facebook friends in their homes across the US and beyond. She's been to some unexpected places, from a bee sanctuary in Saint Louis to the West Wing in the White House and learned a lot about herself. She says she went on her journey as a cynic but came back as a much more open-minded person willing to say 'yes' to anything. In fact, something a lot of people who take a gap year return saying.

On her site she says: ‘Most importantly, I have learned about human kindness and compassion. I continue to be surprised by the number of people, especially (the real life) strangers, who have opened their homes to me—offering me a place to stay, sharing their lives, their stories, their food, and their families while allowing my camera to document it all.’

Are you really my friend - Tanya Hollander

‘What started as a personal documentary on friendship and environmental portraiture has turned into an exploration of American culture and community building both on- and off-line,’ she told Features Shoot. ‘I have found with a little bit of effort, a tenuous online relationship can turn into a close friendship.‘

I’ve got 263 friends – most of them travellers and backpackers – so, err, if you fancy paying for me to do the same let me know in the comments box below and I’ll get in touch…

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