Two Photogs, One Idea: Taking Portraits of All Your Facebook Friends


Back in April of last year, we featured an interesting project by photographer Tanja Hollander. Dubbed The Facebook Portrait Project, Hollander has spent the last year travelling around the world and taking portraits of all her Facebook friends. The project’s motivation was half photographical and half philosophical, an exploration of the definition of “true” friendship that Hollander is still in the midst of today.

As she found out recently, however, she’s not the only one: photographer Ty Morin has embarked on a similar journey. And even though they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the amount of attention the press has been giving Morin’s imitation has left Hollander feeling anything but flattered.


Morin’s project is called Friend Request: Accepted, and it finished a very successful (and then some) campaign on Kickstarter 7 days ago. With the money he raised, Morin plans to visit all 788 of his Facebook friends over the next few years, photograph them, and put together a “Friend Request: Accepted” film and photo series.

Here’s his Kickstarter video:

As Morin’s has gained more and more momentum, Hollander has become increasingly agitated at the lack of attribution she’s gotten as the originator of the idea. She spends her time traveling for, putting together museum shows for, and giving lectures for this project. She’s even given a TEDx talk about it (below). And even though she understands that she doesn’t own the idea, she’s upset that neither the press nor Morin himself have given her what she deems to be sufficient credit.

After quoting Mashable’s viral coverage on Morin’s project, in which they mention her briefly but call it “still a pretty cool idea,” she asks via blog post:

What is “cool” about doing the same exact project as someone else? What is “cool,” Mr. Laird, about not giving credit to your colleague Zoe Fox who covered this on Mashable last year? What is “cool” about intentionally (or not) stealing another person’s [intellectual property]?

Hollander has expressed no interest in pursuing legal action against Morin. She simply hopes that her digital outcry will be heard so that she may receive due credit and bring attention to the fact that Morin’s project, while “pretty cool,” is still an imitation.

  • Alex Minkin

    that seems pretty petty to me. the idea isn’t particularly unique, and I can envision a few more people undertaking it. Its similar to the 365 project, though admittedly much harder to achieve.

    If we had to credit every person we got an idea from, there’d be endless lists of the person who got the idea from a person who got the idea from a person who…you get the point.

    as noted in similar cases, its about execution. and Hollander seems more butthurt that she isn’t getting as much press, even though I’d call a ted talk pretty impressive.

    I’ve used ideas I’ve seen online, then watch as people in my own friend list experiment, improve, or botch the same photo. you’re much better off doing something new than whining someone did the same thing as you.

  • Opie

    Here’s an idea…don’t “friend” people you don’t actually know. Problem solved. Both of these projects are bound to be more navel-gazingly annoying than thought-provoking.

    Everybody and their grandmother knows that Facebook has almost nothing to do with “true” friendship. Raising $15,000 and getting museum exhibitions are equally asinine rewards for asserting this self-evident fact.

  • slvrscoobie

    Seems as though shes just upset she got ‘1 Upped’. Better project, probably not, better timing, for sure.

  • Martin

    Er, didn’t Chris floyd do this with his followers on Twitter a few years back?

  • Tony Lei

    very petty. I came up with this idea 3 years ago, but I could not get enough traction to get it going. I did however post/create a FB page dedicated to it. Not to say that I should be credited as the originator. The idea as a whole is about as original as a photocopy, it’s how you execute it that counts. I didn’t get around to executing the idea, so I have no claim to it.

  • The all mighty one

    The whole idea isn’t all that “brilliant” to begin with so it just seems kind of silly to be getting bothered by the fact she wants credit. If she wants to get praise she should just focus on the excecution

  • Nathan Lee Bush

    My FB friend Tony Gale did this before either of these two.

  • Nathan Lee Bush

    I’m starting to realize that they’ll give a TED talk to anybody.

  • geeves

    Before the proliferation of camera phones, I pretty much was the “official” photographer for most of my friends from Friendster to Myspace and Facebook. Pretty much until the last year or two because I was the only one who had a camera.

  • Jamie De Pould

    There’s a difference between TED and TEDx talks. Anybody can apply to run a TEDx series, and it doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with the TED organization as most people know it.

  • herzco

    I think she is understandably upset. While she quite clearly says she understands she is not the only person who has had the idea – just like many ideas out there – she actually got off her butt and did it first, spending thousands and thousands of her own money to do it. It is a well documented fact that female artists get drastically less attention and shows and this is upsetting to her. She is not whining. She has observed that her more original idea got substantially less traction than a male counterpart. I’d be angry too.

  • DafOwen

    Wow – what a bitter sounding retort.
    Not a new idea at all – had a similar idea pre facebook myself and that was after being inspired by someone else’s similar project years earlier.

  • John Adkins

    LOL, I hate to break it to the originator, but another friend of mine started doing this exact same thing a few years ago. Granted he doesn’t have to fly around the world to photograph the folks in his friends list and there are not as many, but uhhh, I think Ms. Hollander’s project is not an original idea by any means. I’m sure there are many others who have done this as well, but for whatever reason, just not gotten the amount of attention the two photographers mentioned in this article have gotten.

  • scoobo

    People will put anything on kickstarter… geez

  • Dean Merrill

    I just found this site a few days ago, and was happy to come across this post. I am one of the Co-Founders of TEDxDirigo, which this TEDx talk was from. GREAT SITE!