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Do you ever look at the person sitting opposite you on the bus and wonder what’s going through their mind? Perhaps it’s the barista at your local coffee shop or the interesting looking stranger you passed on your way to University this morning? Whoever it is, you can’t help but wonder what their story is. What makes these people full of hopes and fears, what are the interesting experiences that shaped them?
How often do we seize the opportunity to speak to someone new? To hear a little about what is bothering them, something they’ve always wanted to do or even just something that made them happy in the past week? More often than not, the answer is a disappointing ‘never.’ Chances are missed and meaningful connections that could have been made are instead rendered void.
And that’s what Humans of Lancaster is about. Inspired by the now New York Times bestselling Humans of New York, it’s a project aimed at giving daily glimpses into the lives of ordinary people around us. By taking a portrait of a stranger and asking them a few questions that are later posted online, the intention is to show that everyone has a story to tell. Ultimately, it’s about encouraging people to start valuing the small conversations in life – the ones we so often overlook.
In a digital age where social media platforms facilitate instant communication on a global scale, we have lost the ability to communicate. Never have we been as connected as we are now, yet with everyone’s noses buried in smartphones and iPods plugged in, this connectivity so often becomes a means of isolation instead. And that makes the re-humanising aspect of projects like Humans of Lancaster more important than ever.
Started as a University assignment by second and third year digital marketing students, the purpose is to give a voice and a face to the many interesting people who walk these streets. By showcasing the diversity in Lancaster the website aims to share these everyday discoveries and hopefully motivate each and every one of us to initiate our own encounters. A social media campaign involving Facebook and Twitter has also been started to spread awareness and to make it easier for people to get involved.
Unlike Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton’s difficulties starting out in New York, the response to the project in Lancaster has so far been overwhelmingly positive. A surprising few refuse to be photographed or featured on the website and everyone is happy to answer the questions or share a little about their lives. The stories range from people’s highest aspirations and successes to their deepest regrets; from the excitable kid in the sweet shop to the old gentleman observing the city’s changes over the last forty years.
Though Lancaster is certainly no bustling, cosmopolitan New York, its unique character and diversity are reflected in every interview and in terms of kindness and openness, the city’s inhabitants are unparalleled.