Google “millennials” and “loneliness” and you will find a flood of articles. Our generation is rich in virtual connections, poor in concrete companionship. Since 2011, French-Spanish artist Gonzalo Bénard (born in 1969 in Lisbon, Portugal) has been working on a photographic project called “B Shot by a Stranger”, which he hopes will be the subject of further sociological and psychological interpretations.
The project looks into the lives of the lonely youth of today – according to Gonzalo, “the screenagers” – through the webcam. It is an enterprise that exposes one’s vulnerabilities and can seem invasive but is it built on a pact of trust. The subjects are volunteers, young men between the ages of 18 and 28, from all over the world – from Ohio to the Philippines, from Austria to Puerto Rico, Poland to South Africa. Across different cultures and religions and occupations and worries, there is one constant. Everybody is suffering from the illness of the century.
“Shooting through the webcam, I only direct the volunteers to get better compositions, angles and light,” says Gonzalo. “All the rest is up to them: I just follow their own lonely rituals, usually in the morning when the light is often better. This has given me some technical worries though, mostly at the beginning: some connections are not the best; some houses don’t have enough light, etc. It’s never an easy task, especially because you’re not there with the volunteer and we can’t go around the screen to have a better angle. Or compose with better light. But at the end, as any other challenge, it can only make us more creative and flexible.”
“The volunteers share their private moments,” continues the photographer. “Some play instruments, some dance, cook, take photographs, do yoga…but one thing that they all do when they feel alone is to take a bath or shower: a quite interesting ritual, if we connect the religions using the water to purify and clean, both body and mind, or even if we go back in time to find that being in the water can give some sense of security like in the mother’s womb. But specially, being males, we have to deal with some more prejudices on our society including the “weakness” of men who cry, so shower and bath is the perfect place in which we allow ourselves to cry as we’re already wet, so that we would not need to deal with our tears. Boys do cry.”
Many photos in the project are blurry but they succeed in conveying the intensity of the emotions. To those who suffer in the manner displayed here – this project gives comfort. Lonely people are not alone in their struggle.
You can learn more about Gonzalo Bénard on his website (www.gbenard.com), Wordpress blog (gbenard.wordpress.com), Saatchi Art profile (www.saatchiart.com/gonzalobenard), page on Blurb (www.blurb.com/user/GBenard), Twitter (@) and Instagram accounts (www.instagram.com/gwbenard).
Images used with permission.