Over the course of the next half-decade, she captured 430 portraits across four continents, 12 countries, and 203,207 miles. She traveled by car, bus, boat, bike, subway, plane, and train, with funds acquired through grants and tireless fundraising. Some of these individuals she’d never met; others she hadn’t seen in decades, like her sister’s sixth-grade best friend, who now lived in Herzliya, Israel, with a newborn baby.
Hollander isn’t alone, of course, in having plenty of Facebook “friends” in name only. On the site, it’s a catch-all term for all manner of relationships: estranged ex-lovers, short-lived colleagues, and people you’ve never met. They all mingle neatly in your news feed, with fewer than 4 percent
generally considered close friends.
Determined to experience those fringe friendships in a tangible way, Hollander traveled to visit her first portrait subject in spring of 2011: a friend’s ex-girlfriend, from a relationship in the late ’90s, who was then working as one of President Obama’s official photographers in Washington, D.C. Like all of Hollander’s subjects, she was photographed in her home via Hasselblad film camera for a single, square portrait. In it, she gazes serenely into the camera from a kitchen table, her feet bare and hair wet, as if catching up with a dear friend on a sleepy Saturday afternoon.
“That first shoot was remarkable,” says Hollander. And not only because this loose connection landed her a trip to the White House. “I stayed with her for the week. She gave me a tour of the West Wing and the keys to her car,” she says. “She went above and beyond what the ex-girlfriend of a friend of yours would do.”