'Your Companion In Silence', by Imogen Freeland explores the intersection between photography, representation and control.
The series follows Freeland reconnecting with ex-boyfriends and former friends in a effort to re-engage with relationships lost to Facebook likes and false statuses. By tracing these lost connections, Freeland hopes to gain control of the ever-widening gap of isolation occurring in our seemingly connected digital era.
I saw my friends, my real friends, moving on, meeting people, getting engaged, starting families, changing the nature of our friendship as they did so. As more and more people followed that path – real-life connections becoming online contacts and evaporating into nothing – I became resentful about the transience of relationships, frustrated by my inability to control human connections, and guilty that I wasn’t doing anything about it.
On the 20th March at 2.40pm – exactly one month after my Messenger break-up with him – I learned that my friend Louise had died. I read it on her wall, via a comment posted four months earlier. We had no mutual friends.
It’s as though you’re watching the world through glass; you can see, but you can’t touch. Life through the online lens feels like a fiction, a mess of stories that we try to tell about ourselves, a doomed attempt to exercise control over how others see us. But parallel lines never connect.
I wanted to take control again, to reach through the glass and make amends for allowing so many relationships to become relics, preserved only by the aspic of my Facebook feed. I looked at one girl I went to school with. I knew what she did, what she watched on TV, what her daughter looked like, even her favourite dress – but I don’t believe we would have greeted each other in the street. I asked if she’d let me photograph her. It was an excuse to reconnect.
Katharine was the first. My anxious, stumbling and enlightening encounter with her led me to others – lost people from my past, friends I felt slipping away, one-night stands… By the time I asked to photograph him, I wasn’t sure if I was using the camera as an excuse for the meeting or the other way around. I still don’t know.
You can’t deny she looks beautiful in this picture; that bump in her nose has become a flat, perfectly formed little flick. Their smiles match. You study the picture further. It has 58 likes.
When Imogen arrives Katharine doesn’t seem to know whether or not to let her in. Imogen hasn’t seen her since school (she hardly spoke to her then). Neither of them can relax until Imogen asks her about the dress.
I’d somehow managed to convince myself that I needed to repair my relationship with her, but now, watching her move, I realised that had just been the lie I’d told myself to get here. I wanted to see her on the pole.
James was his friend and was living with us when we broke up. I hated thinking about how he must have thought of me at that time, when I’d resented him for being a constant reminder of what I’d lost. It wasn’t James’ fault of course; he just had the misfortune of being around before it happened and still there after. Eventually, I asked him to move out.
The photographs in this series are an attempt to explore the spaces between reality and representation, to restore some meaning to the notion of ‘connections’, and to consider the conflicts and collaborations between a photographer imposing their vision and a subject defending their chosen self-expression. They are also souvenirs of a selfish journey from hurt and powerlessness back to control. I haven’t finished it yet.
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For more information about Imogen and her work visit her website here.