When Brandon Stanton started his Humans of New York blog in 2010, it captured the spirit and humanity of a city. The idea -- snapping a picture of a person and including a quote or two about their life -- would go on to inspire others to create similar projects in their own city.
One “Humans Of” creator is Stephanie Glaros. In addition to maintaining her Humans of Minneapolis blog, Glaros recently published a book showcasing her work.
Do you still get nervous when you approach a stranger?
Initially, when I was first approaching strangers just to take their photo, I was incredibly nervous. It was actually something that I was very fearful to do, and yet I felt compelled to do it. Over time, I would say I don’t have any fear any more. There’s always a little bit of excitement or anticipation, because you just never know what you’re going to run into. I stopped having any kind of preconceived notions of what the conversation is going to be, because I’ve just been cruising along so many times and people constantly surprise me. I just go into them with a completely open mind. But it’s an edgy thing to do. It’s not a normal thing to do.
I would say over time I’ve sort of become very good at reading people... I’ve got a checklist in my head of various things that would disqualify me approaching them at that particular moment: being busy, seeming in a hurry, being on the phone, seeming agitated or maybe they’re having a bad day. There’s just a general vibe that I’m trying to read... I try to get eye contact with them if possible before I approach them because that tells me everything I need to know.
How long have you been doing Humans of Minneapolis?
Well, I started doing street portraits in 2010. Initially, the project was just a way to break down social barriers between myself and the people I was encountering on a daily basis downtown. I called it Minneapolis Strangers at the time. I had followed Humans of New York early on, and completely fell in love with it. When I realized there were "Humans Of" pages popping up all over, I decided to relaunch my project as Humans of Minneapolis in 2013.
What makes your page unique from other “Humans Of” pages and the original one in New York?
I think that each page naturally takes on some of the personality of the person behind it. Everybody’s going to have a different point of view in terms of the photography. Everybody’s going to ask different questions. When they ask questions, they are going to follow up on things they are interested in, versus something someone else might do differently. Even down to the people that we choose… My page has certain themes that tend to come up, and they come up because those are the kinds of things I’m interested in talking about.
Well, one of the first things I did when I first started working on my book was looking at my archives, and I started grouping photos and interviews according to general topics. That’s when I realized there were a lot of themes. So for instance, mental illness comes up a lot in the conversations I have with people. Addiction comes up a lot. Social justice issues come up. I have a friend who runs a page in New Jersey, and he’s a born-again Christian. I’ve noticed in his posts, God comes up a lot, prayer comes up a lot, and I just think it’s a reflection of the person who’s behind it.
When I decided to launch Humans of Minneapolis, the only thing I did consciously at that point to be different than Humans of New York was to have the audio component. So far I haven’t seen any other page that does that.
Do you plan to work on a second book? What do you have in mind?
Another book is about the last thing I’m thinking about at this point. I’ve been doing workshops and speaking engagements that focus on empathy and connection, where the theme is me trying to encourage people to interact with each other more, and I want to do more of those kinds of things. In terms of the work itself, it’s kind of evolving. I’m being approached now more for projects that have a theme or a purpose. For instance, last summer the Minneapolis Parks Foundation had me go out to different neighborhood parks within the city and finding people.
Right now, I’m working on a project for Meals on Wheels where I’m interviewing meal recipients. I’ve got a meal delivery volunteer also, as I'm trying to see the work they are doing. That’s the kind of projects I see myself evolving into, where it’s more like a series of posts around a certain theme, trying to shed a certain light on a certain group of people, for mission oriented-businesses and organizations.
Stephanie Glaros will be giving a talk at the Hennepin History Museum on Sunday, December 4. You can follow her Humans of Minneapolis page at www.facebook.com/humansofmpls. For more info on her book, check out www.stephanieglaros.com/book.
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