I’ve always been a shy person. Always. I generally don’t enjoy meeting new people, and I get uncomfortable when I find myself in a situation where I should be conversing with a person that I don’t know. Maybe you can relate.
Keep this in mind as you read the rest of this post.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Humans of New York (HONY). Personally, I love the project and I admire the ability that Brandon Stanton has to connect to any person he meets. I’ve been following his page for a while now, and each time he posts, I’m fascinated by the stories that his subjects tell. I struggle to imagine why anyone would reveal their soul in this way to some random dude with a camera. I always thought that it was just because of the sheer amount of people in New York City, Brandon is able to find people who happen to be willing to have deep conversations with any random person. But then I realized that it mostly has to do with his ability to connect with people. He is genuinely interested in the lives of these people and they can sense that as they speak with him.
And he always finds people with the most compelling stories. Again, I chalked this up to the huge population in the city. Law of averages - the more people, the more amazing stories.
While walking to work one day (I walk everywhere), I thought to myself: “I bet just about every single person in this city has a story to tell that is interesting. That guy waiting for the bus. That woman walking to work. Everyone.” I suddenly became incredibly interested in the stories all of these strangers hadn’t told me yet.
What if I did my own Humans of New York? Right here in Portland
First, this idea scared the shit out of me. But the more I thought about it, the more possible it seemed. I love a good challenge. Always have. And right now, nothing seems more challenging than walking up to a stranger, and asking them to let me take their photo and also tell me something interesting about their life. But I am truly and genuinely interested in what these people have to say. I fully understand what drove Brandon to start HONY, and I’m inspired by what he has been able to do with his project.
So here it is. This is the official beginning of what I am calling "The Real Portland."
These are the stories of the people who make Portland great (not that other Portland, the real one). I don’t care if they live here, are just visiting, or are just leaving. They are all a part of this city at the moment that I speak with them. And every one of them has a story to tell, and I want to hear it, and share it with you.
I haven’t been this excited (or scared) about anything in a very long time. There is so much possibility, but also so much fear to get past. The good news is that no matter what happens, I will undoubtedly grow as a person, and hopefully contribute positively to the lives of others, in the process.
Why Do This?
You may be aware that there is already a Humans of Portland, Maine page on Facebook that has a decent amount of followers. I don’t care. I am doing this as a challenge to myself, both personally and artistically. I have been shooting for about two-and-a-half years now, and I realize I still have a lot to learn. Especially when it comes to portraits. And what better subject to work with than someone I’ve never met! They aren’t paying me, so they can’t be disappointed with the photos, and they are probably just as nervous as I am (or even more so) because some idiot with a camera just barged into their life, unexpectedly.
So I don’t care if this doesn’t get as big of a following as that Facebook page. I don’t care if this project gains me zero followers. I’m in it for the challenge of conversing with strangers, and I’m in it to tell the stories of the people in this fair city.
Because what’s a challenge without rules? BUT, there is only one rule: I will not photograph people whom I already know. That’s too easy. Cheating. Just.. nope. Strangers only.
My goal is to get a total of 100 strangers. You have to start small. And when I say small, I’m talking relative to HONY, which is on the order of tens of thousands at this point, I believe. Honestly, if I can make it to 100 I will consider this endeavor to be a tremendous success. But if I do get there, I don’t plan on stopping (at least, right now).
Let's Do This
Finally, I hope that anyone reading this will enjoy the photos and stories that are to come. I truly hope that they enrich your life in some small way. And if you like what you see, I encourage you to share this project with others. Post it, talk about it, write about it, whatever. If you think someone might enjoy this, tell them about it. That’s all I ask. I appreciate your support. I’m really going to need it.
Well, here goes. I’m honestly not really sure how this is going to go, but I’m going to just follow my own advice and (earmuffs) just fucking do it.
All photos will appear in three locations: