For three months in 2011 I did a field work of sorts on Chat Roulette, a website on the fringe of the social networking frontier. The site connects a user with a random stranger, anywhere in world, via live video and audio link. My fascination with Chat Roulette stems mostly from from an Anthropology background that was focused in new social interactions and concepts such as “space” vs. “place” in modern society. People have been spending time in chat rooms, forums and social networking circles for over a decade, but Chat Roulette’s live video connection feels more like a “place” to me than a “site”. The experience can in ways be compared to the city street or social event, where you cannot choose to simply observe, but must allow oneself also to be seen. In certain ways it’s more immediate, as the connection is usually between just two individuals, likely in their homes, sharing a view into each others intimate personal spaces.
My primary mode of expression has long been photography, and the new visual perspective that came from this project is what I found to be the most valuable story. I ultimately chose to capture still images of people as they sit on their computers, usually at home alone in their personal space. We are so often looking at the computer, but we rarely allow it look back at us, let alone capture our expressions and surroundings. As culture becomes progressively digitized and we spend increasing amounts of our time and attention in front of screens of all kinds I find the image of peoples faces, so close and so engaged with the computer, a particularly relevant portrait of both these individuals themselves and the society in which they are participants.