Sunday, August 30, 2009

Missed Connections

The digital and physical worlds get reconciled beautifully in Sophie Blackall's five-month-old blog, Missed Connections, in which Blackall uses her skills as an artist to illustrate online "missed connections" ads from Craigslist New York. Her subjects are people trying to reconnect digitally with strangers they just saw or met in passing somewhere—at a diner, in a subway car, on the rooftop at a party in Greenpoint. New York magazine's August 10-17 Approval Matrix called Blackall's blog both "highbrow" and "brilliant"; cites her renderings of "chance encounters, momentary glimmers of hope for a new friend or lover..."

["Uptown 3 train: If not for your noisy tambourine, I would not have seen you. Your green skirt looked terrible but that leather jacket makes you look just right. I was the attractive guy sitting to your left just before you got off."]

Here's another:

The Craigslist ads "are like digital messages in a bottle," says the Adelaide-born Blackall, who illustrates childrens' books from her Brooklyn studio. "I've lived in New York for 10 years now but still, it's fascinating to me that millions of people cross paths every day and occasionally, something happens that puts them into the immediacy of each others' lives for just a moment. Always, in these ads, there seems a deep hope that this might be the one connection, that if found again, could change their lives forever. I think the Web can be very hopeful in that way." Here's more from our recent conversation with Blackall:

Why this, and why now?
I was looking for an apartment on Craigslist and stumbled across this section for missed connections. It was so riveting, that I found myself trawling through page after page. One woman posted an ad for a 'misconnection' that hadn't happened yet. She was planning to have one in the future. She named a time and a specific place, one block on Second Avenue between 9th and 8th streets; she announced that she was going to be walking a dog on a leash and be wearing a black t-shirt. She wrote that she was going to see if anyone would show up and become her misconnection. I followed up; I kept reading the missed connections list to see if I’d see anything back from her, but I never did. What I did see were two posts from people who had been there but didn’t see her. Maybe she didn't show up. Who knows? Maybe she was sitting in a café across the street somewhere, watching to see if anybody would bother.

Which are some of your favorites?
I love the one where someone wrote, “Seeking girl who bit me TWICE last night while we were dancing.” It cracks me up—the fact this girl bit this guy twice but he couldn’t remember her name.

Scrabble Tattoo on Roof (above, top) is another favorite, from an ad placed by a man who was clearly besotted with a girl he met at a party on a rooftop in Greenpoint. He saw her while she was sitting on top of the stairs, and he asked her if she always sat in a circle of Asian girls. He also asked, Did she always sit at the top of the stairs, so everyone who would pass her would fall in love with her? The guy had gone downstairs to get her a piece of cake and then, when he got back, she’d disappeared.

Did you always want to be an illustrator?
My burning ambition when I was 12 was to illustrate a
New Yorker cover. I'd papered all of my bedroom walls with New Yorker covers that belonged to my father; he was an Englishman and one of a handful of people in Australia at the time who subscribed. As soon as he'd bring the magazines home, I'd rip off the covers and tack them up on the walls in my room, like wallpaper, and he'd be furious because I'd never ask first."

For more of Blackall's work, see her Web site.

—By Marcia Stepanek

(All illustrations courtesy of Sophie Blackall)

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