On a recent night while a friend and I waited for our main courses, we noticed most of the surrounding couples were more engaged with their screens than each other. A sea of people alone together. Just six years ago the iPhone revolutionized mobile technologies (a fact I just googled on my phone), profoundly changing the way we access information and connect with each other. Where face-to-face chance meetings once ruled in photography, online communities are redefining such encounters. With this in mind, Tanja Hollander set out on the road with her camera to investigate the authenticity of her 626 facebook friends. Are You Really My Friend? includes portraits, landscapes and hand-written post-it notes tracing subjects’ thoughts on the nature of friendship. Her first exhibition at Carroll and Sons in Boston through December 21 concentrates on a selection of landscapes made while on the road driving between participants’ homes. (Beginning on November 16, Hollander is also showing this work at Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York.)
Many of her subjects are akin to strangers, linked by former lovers or workplace networks. En route from one place to another Hollander stops in pristine areas untouched by human industry or documents empty highways stretching toward the sky. Such quiet moments suggest the trepidation and anticipation one experiences before meeting someone new. A sublime 48-inch square of blue and gray with faint lavender peaks turns out to be the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and reads like a religious testimony of perseverence. A vast golden sky reflecting off Moosehead Lake echoes the warmth and comfort hundreds of participants extend by opening their homes to Hollander and her camera. Resting on a nearby pedestal, two small photo albums accompanying the exhibit present selected portraits and notes. Scrolling through the pages helps these depopulated landscapes feel less isolated, ironically mimicking the online experience where we are connected and solitary at the same time.