It only takes one click to make a “friend” online. A retweet of a former coworker, an impassioned reply to a redditor, a like on a stranger’s Instagram. But even if you have thousands of Facebook friends, it cannot replicate the intimacy of hanging out IRL.
Peter Garritano explores the isolation of modern life in Seeking, his ongoing series of arresting portraits of people who posted in the “Strictly Platonic” section on Craigslist. “I was interested in the idea of loneliness, especially in the social media age, when followers and friends are made much more apparent to us,” Garritano says. “These are people who aren’t looking for love, they’re looking for a solution to some version of loneliness.”
He’s sent messages to a few hundred people since launching the project in February, 2016. A handful have replied. In each case, Garritano explains the project over the phone and sets up a time for the shoot. Sometimes he works on location, but he favors his studio because his subjects often feel most comfortable there. He combines close-ups with environmental shots, but all feel deeply intimate—especially when paired with the person’s original Craigslist post.
Some people just want to swap music or play tourist in New York for a few days. Others had something more specific in mind, like a “vegan bestie.” A few felt a bit less than platonic, like the fellow who posted, “Man for hire: cleaning house or apartment without clothes.” But most requests were pretty commonplace. “I was expecting for this to be a place where people went to find friendships that they couldn’t find just by strolling through your local book club,” Garritano says. “In reality, there were some very obscure interests, but the overwhelming majority were just people who wanted a very straightforward, simple kind of friend.”
Seeking offers a vulnerable look at a basic desire—a pal to see a movie with, grab a coffee, or run errands. And despite the endless array of online communities, finding a true friend can pose a challenge. “I hope the project lessens the shame that people might feel from having this social need, this social void they’re looking to fill,” he says. Garritano keeps in touch with some of these folks, and even hangs out with them occasionally. Turns out you never know where you might meet a friend.
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