All over the world people are discovering what can be done with a camera and a curiosity to see one’s surroundings through a different lens. In the summer of 2010, Brandon Stanton began “Humans of New York” (HONY); now a vibrant blog and New York Times bestselling book that provides a daily glimpse into the lives of strangers in New York City. Out of HONY have been born innumerous other “Humans of” blogs. Some of these spinoffs are strictly candid photos; others are locations, and more still feature portraits together with captions. Alongside existing blogs from Rome, Amsterdam, Karachi, Tehran, and India, has come “Humans of Vancouver” (HOV).
This Vancouver based blog was founded by grade eleven York House School students, Anisha Cheema and Julianna Perkins. The girls met in grade eight through Destination Imagination, an organization that fosters creative thinking and teamwork, and bonded “over duck-tape and a lot of straws”. Individually they discovered HONY and together they collaborated to bring HOV to life. A lot of inspiration came from Brandon Stanton himself. “I like that he takes regular people and turns them into works of art”, said Julianna. Moreover, the two recognize that Stanton taught himself the skills he has used to grow his blog. He began HONY with a passion and turned it into a career. This same passion now drives the girls themselves with HOV.
It started as a photo Instagram and very quickly progressed to a Facebook blog in line with HONY. The original Instagram page now acts as a secondary blog, which the girls are looking to hand over to a third party to manage. Within about four hours of its creation, HOV, which consisted of only three posts, already had five hundred likes. “I had no idea it was going to reach this big of an audience, so quickly especially”, said Cheema. Original goals for the blog were to reach one hundred likes on the Facebook page by the end of the summer, then in light of its immediate success it became a goal of one thousand, and then three thousand. As of September eighth, HOV has exceeded eleven thousand likes.
So, why “Humans of Vancouver”? Their reasons go beyond exploring the realm of photojournalism and following in the footsteps of a shared idol, Mr. Brandon Stanton. Anisha explains, “We are primarily focused on the stories. We really want to share these with Vancouverites and connect the people in our city.” She furthers this in saying, “social media typically has a stereotype of disconnecting us […] we want to change that.” On the streets, the girls typically encounter one of two types of people; those who are eager to answer questions and those who are willing but more so reserved. Anisha notes that regardless of his or her nature she has been awed by the openness of every individual. “They open up and share themselves with us!” Both she and Julianna have found that interviews will extend up to half an hour in length, even when only a paragraph long caption is posted on the blog.
What has each founder learnt so far from running HOV? “Every person is an intricate web of experiences, knowledge, and relationships”, said Julianna. Anisha continued saying that, “Through this blog, I have really come to terms with the fact that so many people have experienced the same thing as you and I. Through conducting these interviews, I really understand the phrase, ‘you are not alone.’” Finally, regarding the general population of the city, the two agree that the blog has shown them that Vancouverites are truly varied and that there is no stereotypical Vancouverite.
Since its creation, HOV has quickly gained traction and has resulted in interviews for the girls with CBC, Douglas Coupland, Kid Carson, Vancity Buzz, and now Lotusland. Moving forward (and into the new school year), Anisha and Julianna are going to be focusing on maintaining the quality and consistency of the blog. Additionally, they are looking to advertise local businesses and attractions on their Facebook page to help earn a profit to put towards bettering the blog. HOV posts once or twice a day and can be found here.