1. You all know about Humans of New York.
It’s a photoblog and bestselling book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City, which was founded in 2010 and now has some 6,000 portraits.
Well, now London has its own version. It was started by Tom and Safa, two 22-year-olds who’ve known each other since school. Tom works as a policeman while Safa works at a multinational in the City. It’s a joint project, but they do the photos individually so as not to intimidate anyone.
Here are some of the portraits they’ve taken.
“I’m working with ex-combatants in Libya, trying to rehabilitate them back into society. Sadly, I don’t know how realistic the prospect of long term peace is; I’m a small part of a much bigger picture.”
“I came to this park as a child. When I became an adult, alcohol consumed me and I forgot about the simple pleasures of life. Too much alcohol and not enough looking after myself is what led to me having my legs amputated 7 years ago. Coming to terms with losing my legs was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through – but it’s what I needed to find myself again.
Since the amputation, I’ve been coming here near enough everyday. Through spending time here I’ve managed to find peace, and in the process kick the drink. The squirrels are so used to me that they come up and see me whenever I’m here - I’m part of the furniture now. This one’s pregnant, she’s bigger every time I see her.”
“We found Pavol looking a bit sorry for himself after having too much to drink. So we’ve made it our mission to try and help him get home but he’s been telling us that it’s around the corner for the last 90 minutes! I think he’s just enjoying our company more than anything else.”
5. Safa tells BuzzFeed:
I religiously followed the New York original and always thought that you could do something similar in any city in the world, especially London. However, I always had an excuse not to do it - money, time, whatever.
Once I started working, I would spend my days surrounded by thousands of people, many of whom I thought were interesting in some way, but many appearing unapproachable. It was a strange feeling. One day I got a call from Tom asking me if I wanted to start this blog with him and probably due to my own frustration at the lack of human interaction in the city, I said yes. We immediately bought the lens for this and got on the Tube to Whitechapel - our first ever destination.
“I came out of jail two weeks ago for possession with intent to supply heroin.”
“What would you tell someone about jail?”
“Don’t go there. You don’t want to be there. Whatever you think, the outside world just stops. You’re an animal in a cage. I’m never going back there man, there are other ways to make money.”
“What’s your biggest challenge?”
“It’s me fucking Irish accent! Everywhere I go, people think I’m faking it and they’re like ‘stop it, stop it!’. They look at me and expect me to be a black man from London but I was born and bred in Dublin. They think that black people don’t exist in Ireland.”
“This has been my parish for 25 years, during which tortures like the email and mobile phones have been invented. I’ve had to trust God to prioritise my time.
People email me and want a reply on the same day; if I don’t, they get annoyed. But I don’t own a mobile phone or any new technology which means that I have to log on to a computer to read my emails. People find that unusual.”
“This fear of talking to strangers must be something to do with the miserable weather. It’s exactly the same in Poland. In warm countries, everyone seems happier and people are more outgoing, but if I talk to a stranger here, I worry that they automatically think I’m hitting on them.”
“How can you break the mould?”
“It’s difficult. You just have to do it. And make sure that conversation isn’t about the weather or transport - make it about something real, something important. It can definitely be uncomfortable at times but if you’re genuine, people can tell and appreciate it.”
10. Tom tells BuzzFeed:
I actually found out about Humans of New York through Safa, I saw he liked it on Facebook and checked it out myself. I was actually on a commute home when I thought; there’s no reason why I can’t do this and immediately called Safa as I knew he’d be just the guy to do it with. We set a date to go shooting and it’s all come very naturally from there. Similarly to Safa, this project is very much about feeding my curiosity.
But I guess the single most important thing is it makes me happy – I enjoy it. I enjoy the genuine interaction with strangers, and I enjoy watching myself improve. The other aspect of my motivation for doing this is that it’s relevant to my job, my interactions on this project are miles apart from the interactions I have as a police officer. It’s easy to become sceptical about human nature as a police officer. This is an excellent way of keeping me level headed and optimistic about people, London and life.