One of Facebook’s greatest qualities is the fact that users can stay tethered to nearly every person they have interacted with to date. Your neighbor’s great aunt; your suitemate from freshman year; that nice guy you sat next to on the flight to Tucson that one time. But how can you get to know a person’s true “face” beyond the profile?
St. Louis photographer Corey Woodruff created his “All of the Faces” photo project as a way to find out. He is on a mission to capture a portrait of every single one of his 738 Facebook friends.
At the end of 2014, he put out an informal casting call on Facebook asking friends of his if they wanted their picture taken by him. “Several friends responded and I set up a series of shoots for the week with the intention of playing with lighting ideas and such,” he says. But as he worked, he remembered a blog post he read three months prior about a man from Australia who was on a mission to have coffee dates with each of his Facebook friends as a way to get to know them better. “I decided, on the spot, that I would be photographing all of my Facebook friends. I completed 96 portraits in the first month, including one insane week where I had 43 sessions,” he says.
In taking the photos, 40 year-old Woodruff uses two different concepts – the “face” photo and an improvised photo, which has ranged from a family portrait to being covered in paint. “Everyone has been fairly into it, and even the shy ones seem to leave happy. I think that means I’m doing my job as a photographer and friend.”
Some 310 portraits later, Woodruff has no plans to stop the project until it’s done – even if that means traveling to friends in Australia and Europe to get the shot.
“I spent the month of October doing a four-week, 10,333 mile road trip around the perimeter of the USA to photograph the 50 or so friends that live outside the Midwest. I visited 36 states and essentially hit all four corners of the nation. It was intense,” he says. Beyond sharpening his skills, Woodruff says the project has taught him well about the benefits of forging relationships beyond the keyboard.
“I quickly realized how great it was to use social media as a means to interact in person and that instantly became a focus of the project. Because of that shift in my outlook, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my friends much better. There have been some awkward moments between me and my lesser-known friends but I’ve come to appreciate those opportunities instead of dread them. I think they have too.