Ah, Craigslist–the online mecca for buying used furniture, turning strangers into roommates, and even looking for friendship. The “strictly platonic” subsection of Craigslist is a potent mix of desperation, loneliness, and yearning, where lost souls look for someone to cuddle with, to hang out with in the nude (NSFW), or even just workout with. But who are these people–who would post an ad looking for the ultimate cool best friend?
That’s what the New York-based photographer Peter Garritano is investigating in his series Seeking, where he takes portraits of the people who post these platonic ads. The resulting photographs, which he pairs with the original Craigslist posting, put a human face on the people behind these ads–while undercutting some of the assumptions one might make about who they are and what they want.
“I became interested in the idea that the people in a city this large and diverse must be able to find a community no matter how uncommon their interests,” Garritano tells Co.Design in an email. “There are heavy metal yoga classes here, nudist co-working spaces, the list goes on. One would think that no one in such a city would ever need to be lonely.”
But of course, they are. One man, a soccer player doing physical rehab looks for visitors, writes, “Just looking for friends to talk too, wheelchair around the block no need to push me, coffee shop my treat . . . If you are sane cool and nice person to talk to come over after work and keep me company. Visiting Hours till 9 p.m.” In his portrait, taken in his hospital room, he lies back against his pillows under a bright fluorescent light, staring at the ceiling.
Another, a student at Columbia University, is looking for other young people around his age who, like him, are on the autism spectrum. In his portrait, he steps out from behind one of Columbia’s iconic columns, his eyes squinting against the harsh sunlight.
Others use the section for professional reasons–one yoga instructor in Seeking uses it to find students. One woman, who looks defiantly at the camera in her portrait, is a female rapper hoping to collaborate with other musicians. In her ad, she makes her intentions very clear: “First & foremost, I don’t need ‘help’ with my music career.” Another is a photographer looking for models.
In order to find subjects for the series, Garritano scrolls through the ads and sends responses to posts that he finds intriguing. He says he’s sent hundreds of messages over the past year. While most people don’t respond, the few that do react positively. If they’re interested in joining the project, Garritano finds a time to meet with them and then allows the photoshoot to unfold organically from there so he can be as true to their character as possible.
“For me, it’s a chance to meet people I would have otherwise been unlikely to cross paths with and learn about the city through their lens,” he says.
While Garritano says he couldn’t pick a favorite, he found the man behind an ad entitled, ” Are you taking time to enjoy the moment? – m4w” to be a particularly compelling subject. “I’ve never understood the idea of a ‘muse’ but if I could imagine having one, I’d want this man,” he says. “He was the ideal sitter.”
Despite the subsection’s name–strictly platonic–it’s clear that some of Garritano’s subjects are looking for more than friendship. One boldly writes, “I’m not opposed to hooking up. We can hang out, watch TV, eat chocolate cake, maybe kiss, then fuck.” One woman is “open to casual fun.”
Why do people post these ads on Craigslist in the first place?
“Most of the time, if it’s truly platonic, I don’t think it’s any more complicated than an attempt to make a friend or fill a social cavity of some sort,” Garritano says. “Being lonely shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of and the platonic thread creates a safe space for that.”