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Andrea DiCenzoHeathrow 23 July 2002 – w4m – 40 (Terminal 3 Air Canada Flight)
I waited for you this July 23st just incase you were able to make it. I have posted messages for you on missedconnections.com and Craig’slist Ottawa so I hope you get one of them.
I am yours forever.
Emma X

American ex-pat and photographer Andrea DiCenzo contacted and photographed dozens of people who posted on ‘Missed Connection’ sites in New York and London. The result is a collection of heartbreaking messages and obscured portraits, both leaving the viewer desiring more to the story. From searching soul mates to clandestine break-ups, In Defence poignantly weaves a tale of love and loss without exploiting the authors who penned them. We spoke with DiCenzo about feeling isolated in a multitude and the courage it takes to send a note into the void.

Andrea DiCenzoBlack woman who does post-production for Discovery Channel
Sorry for the super-specific headline, but I wanted to be sure it caught your attention. Thank you for helping me find the pub on Foley St. a couple days ago. You were really sweet, quite pretty, and we share a common interest in video production. In case you helped several people find Foley St. that day, I was the American one

I think most everyone has read the ‘Missed Connection’ posts at one time or another. Where did the inspiration for the work come from?
“It was brought out of this fascination I had with city living, actually. I remember when my brother first moved to New York City back in 2005 and I was still in a sleepy college town on the coast of Northern California. He wasn’t having a bad time in New York, but he wasn’t having the easiest time either. He said something along the lines of ‘I’ve never had so many people around me, and I’ve never felt so alone’. It was almost the sheer quantity of people everywhere – above, below, next to – that sort of crystalized a feeling of isolation because there was not any real connection there.

“Moving to New York myself in 2007, I experienced what he was talking about first hand and understood how profound that feeling can be. I think a lot of people can experience disconnect anywhere, but it seems quite easy to put yourself in that emotional space in massive cities. Back then we did not have OK Cupid or Grindr or Tinder, but there was this rudimentary ‘Missed Connection’ part of Craigslist. It became this sort of strange way that people tried to re-connect with other people in their own environment. I just thought it was really interesting. And then slowly, I came to the idea of trying to photograph them and ask them why they wanted to use this form of communication.”

Can you tell us why you chose the title In Defense?
“Not sure if I really enjoy the title of the work now to be honest. It’s a bit base. But, I felt like most of the people that I met – whether they were just vain, or deeply moved, or a little obsessive – I saw it all of those initial reasonings to post an ad as an attempt to defend themselves from being isolated. ”

Andrea DiCenzodimt – Charlotte Street – m4w – 35 (London)
Hi there. The odds on you seeing this are small but its worth a try. I came in to this restaurant at about 9:30pm with a friend of mine. You were sitting at the back of the restaurant, next to us, and possibly on a date. You clearly looked bored and I really wanted to speak with you but that would have been very uncool to him. Anyway, you are a tall, thin brunette who was wearing a very nice sun dress. I had my back to your table but kept turning around and you smiled at me when I left which made me melt. Really hope you just happen to see this. Thanks!

The messages shown with the work are extremely personal and intimate. How did you convince the authors to be comfortable enough to meet and be photographed?
“That was a challenge. More challenging then I thought it would be! I would reach out to hundreds of people. Honestly, I cannot remember how many emails I sent out. I don’t think that many of them were really excepting a response. They just wanted to throw their stories into the abyss of the Internet. I even sent emails out to the people who would post pictures of their penises and other taboo things (pretty glad none of them wrote back). I was just really upfront with what I wanted to do and how the project would be presented. First it was going to be portraits but I abandoned that idea at the end. We would meet in a public place and talk first. I’d ask them questions about the post. I would always have someone with me. I encouraged them to do the same. Then we’d just go from there if everyone was comfortable.”

Andrea DiCenzoTo the cute guy who served me at the one stop shop just now
I couldn’t get enough of your eyes and your swishiness and as I walked away delighted from our flirtation I kicked myself that I hadn’t pounced…

Did you speak with them about the stories behind these posts? How did that affect the way you looked at the work as a whole?
“I did and most of the stories were extremely moving. I think the people that responded to me where just looking for a way to tell their stories, which in turn, made the photographs and work mean more to me. It was significant to me that they were letting me into their lives and allowing me to address this issue of disconnect. This one man that I interviewed and photographed was coming out of a break up. His post was really addressing her, even though he knew she would never read it. That one really stayed with me.”

Andrea DiCenzo…………you missed good waffles

What do you think In Defense says about loneliness in the age of technology and swarming cities? Are we more alone than previous generations?
“I don’t think that we are. I do believe that relying on technology can cause us to feel isolated though. But there is more of an understanding and discussion about how these new forms of technology/communication are effecting our levels of happiness and feelings of belonging. So I see it more as a constant form of development. I think the connectivity can be a really good thing, but I also think it’s something we are concerned about more than ever.”

Did any of your ‘Missed Connections’ find who they were searching for?
“Not a single one! That’s sort of sad, isn’t it? But I think that really was not the issue for most of the people I photographed. It was more just trying to create something for themselves beyond the longing to talk to someone.”

Andrea DiCenzoBond st gal avoiding smoker – m4w
This is probably a long shot, but we were walking in opposite directions down Oxford St and you cleverly avoided a smoker exhaling, when we made eye contact and shared a very intimate smile.

Andrea DiCenzoYour thighs weren’t fat – m4w (London)
Hello. You were on the train to Waterloo with a female friend on Tues 5th in the evening. You were talking about how fat your thighs were and how disgusting it was, and how you couldn’t get jeans to fit. Well just to let you know, I was sitting on the other side of the aisle and I think you’re being hard on yourself. You have fine thighs and a fine body. In fact I think you were a fine looking woman generally.

This post was contributed by photographer and Feature Shoot Intern Jenna Garrett.

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