In Amy Lombard’s book Connected she hopes to join the dots between “the current state of community in an internet age”. She explains: “We constantly hear that technology is pulling us apart, and that community as we once knew it died while we were looking at our phones. To a certain extent, I get it but I hope this book makes people question that.”
From a young age, Amy’s interests weren’t the normal and she felt “personal safe space” behind the computer screen. It’s something she recognises in other people and has noticed the jump from on-screen message rooms to real-life meet-ups with likeminded people. “The internet breeds bullying – we know this – but as the images in this book show, it brings people together in a pretty extraordinary way. The book documents this societal shift,” explains Amy.
In the past we’ve featured Amy’s photographs of a convenience store, clusters of teenyboppers and chihuahuas. The book encapsulates similar themes seen in those projects by focusing on the interactions between people and the sociological relevance groups have in society. For Connected the project goes way back to 2013, when Amy found herself at a pug pool party in Staten Island – it was the first of many offbeat meet-ups, events and group gatherings the photographer visited in the preceding years. “I came for the pugs and left feeling fascinated with how the internet was facilitating a community around something so very specific,” she says. “From there I found myself at more meet-ups just out of curiosity to see the communities that were making up our larger culture.
Last year, Amy was given the VSCO Artist Initiative Grant which allowed her project to become bigger. “I have been to everything from Harry Potter meet-ups, Instameets at the White House, Homestuck Tumblr meet-ups, multiple asexual meetings, Pokemon Go, to meeting Henry Ford enthusiasts and barefoot hikers.” Amy took something unique from each group she met and an awareness of how the internet helped shaped these subcultures. “The aces (asexual) meet-ups were particularly interesting because the whole understanding of asexuality is very internet centric – both from the outsider perspective and also for those who identify on the asexuality spectrum,” she explains.
The whole notion behind the book is to convey that “you don’t have to be alone”. To communicate this idea in book-form Amy felt it was important that her images were presented together and worked with designer Elysia Berman on the project. “Making a book about internet culture almost felt counterintuitive in a sense. The more I thought about it, the act of making this physical book really did replicate the experience of bringing online culture into the world,” Amy says. “It was the tight edit, design and use of text that helped make the concept come full circle.”
Amy’s saturated and punchy style of photography works well in this project through her ability to capture moments and coincidences without overthinking or manipulating her subjects. She photographs the groups and hang-outs candidly and despite the multitude of communities presented within the book, that thread of companionship runs throughout.
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