Humans of Leeds: Behind the camera
Local lad’s lens captures Yorkshire’s faces - and hearts
A Leeds photographer, behind the hugely successful photography Facebook page, ‘Humans of Leeds’, has been spotted at Tent City in Park Square this week.
Snapping the faces inside and outside the tents, he is undertaking a project to help the homeless who live in his hometown.
The superb shutterbug - who wishes to remain anonymous – is the man behind the lens of an ongoing assignment where he snaps people in the street and asks them a personal question about themselves afterwards.
His Facebook page, Humans of Leeds, has nearly 43,000 followers who eagerly await his daily posts of social documentary.
Here, he takes some time off his busy schedule to talk to Asian Express about his life as a snapper on the streets.
1) How did you first get onto the idea of Humans of Leeds (HOL)?
Humans of Leeds started in the spring of 2013. I was looking for my next photography project and I kept seeing these posts from Humans of New York (HONY) on my timeline. I just thought it was so organic, taking portraits of random people in the street. So I did some research around street photography and street portraits specifically. I found that there wasn't much work being done in Leeds in the portrait space, and so HOL was born.
2) Has the response to the project been bigger than expected?
Totally, I never expected it! When I first started it was purely from a photographic point of view, I wanted to take street portraits. But as time passed, I found myself interacting with people more and more; having longer and deeper discussions as my confidence grew. The project evolved, and continues to evolve, as it becomes as much about seeing a person’s portrait, to reading their story.
3) Have there been any standout characters in your time?
There have been several. The most notable of late was a young Buddhist monk who I bumped into last month. We only spoke briefly but I managed to capture a great quote from him about contentment and winning one’s heart - a piece of wisdom I would expect from a spiritual person. I invited him for a coffee and we've had several long chats since and it turns out his story is even more remarkable. I'm hoping to share that at some point in the future.
4) Do you find people open up when you tell them what you are doing? Why?
I suppose it makes it easier when someone knows about the page, and its format. They're more likely to open up knowing the intent behind the project. But equally, even those people who've never heard of HOL, or even HONY, can be equally open and candid. It really depends on the individual and the way you make them comfortable in speaking about their lives. Social interaction is a complex art, and I would say I'm still learning as I go.
5) What inspires you to keep going?
The next inspiring, amazing story. The one thing I've learnt doing this project has been that the determination of the human soul knows no bounds. We are capable of wonderful things. Those things need to be shared.
6) Why do you remain anonymous?
It wasn't a conscious decision from day one. I started the project not really knowing where it would go, or whether I'd still be doing it three years later. So I never put my name to it from the beginning. Then, when it started to get noticed and started taking off, people became curious about who the photographer was behind the scenes. It became this fun thing, and the idea just stuck.
7) Any upcoming projects?
I'm currently working with the Leeds Homeless Action Group at Tent City. We're hoping to put on an exhibition to raise money for the homeless. It came about by accident when I walked into a meeting with one of the protest organisers, Haydn Jessop. It's about raising awareness of the real problem we face in our city, but which is often hidden or suppressed by certain parties. By shining a light on some of these peoples past experiences and circumstances, hopefully something positive can be achieved.