US-based photographer Tanja Hollander has amassed nearly 700 Facebook friends, but many of them she has never met in person. And so, she went on a huge journey in the hope of turning her online relationships into something more real.
Metro Mexico interviewed the 41-year-old Maine native to find out more about her photo project titled ‘Are You Really My Friend?’.
Metro: What is like to travel and visit more than 700 friends?
Hollander: It's been really interesting in every way. I'm about halfway through so there's still 300 more to go. I'm still surprised about how many homes I've been to and how generous people are, especially the people that don't have a lot. They're willing to share what they do have, whether it's food, wine or introducing me to their friends and family, or just making some extra space at home for me to sleep.
Do you tell them you are going to visit, or surprise them on arrival?
Yes, I email everybody first.
So, how did you come up with the idea of visit all your Facebook friends?
On New Year’s Eve in 2010, I was writing a letter to a friend in Afghanistan and at the same time instant-messaging with a friend who is working in Jakarta. I started thinking about those two friendships and the different way of communicating because they were in opposite places in the world. They're from different parts of my life. Both friendships and ways of communicating are important to me. So I started to think about how we talk with so much technology and how much of our lives is so 'photographable'.
We know your friends let you stay at their homes but how much money have you spent so far?
A lot! I don't know, that's a good question. It's been a lot. I started this project with a low budget, I could make another project on how to travel with not a lot of money.
Where did you start and which cities have you visited so far?
I started traveling in April 2011 and I've been to a hundred US cities and towns across 43 states. There's nine overseas destinations left to go in Europe, Asia and New Zealand.
What's been the hardest part of this journey?
Scheduling is really difficult, to make sure I'm in the city my friends are from, maybe they are not home or not available. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with everything, like now that I'm getting a lot of attention from the media and I'm giving a lot of interviews and that is hard to keep track of my journey. It's also incredibly difficult traveling alone and trying to remember everything.
When do you think you're going to finish this journey?
Hopefully within a year or two. It really depends on how much money I can raise because I have to stop and raise money, which takes time.
Since you started your project, has your Facebook list of friends changed?
Yes, the numbers are going crazy. But I don't accept requests from people I don't know. Some of them deleted me but I don't know why.
Do you have a better definition of a digital friendship?
I think there are different kinds of friendship: there are some friends you call in the middle of the night and the kind of friends you go to the movies with, but there's also the friends you have only by emails or texts. Having a multitude of different kinds of friendships is really enriching.
Are you planning to make an expo besides publishing your photos on Facebook?
Yes, I post everything online in Facebook and in my blog and in the end I'm planning to have an exhibition at a museum.