“My intentions are to show that despite living in a big city such as London, people always have something to say, a story they’d like to share. I discovered that people were sometimes more willing to open up to a stranger with a camera than to even their best friends. The human contact is the thing I enjoy the most about Humans of London city, I just love meeting people, discussing with them and instead of just judging someone by the way he looks, I can actually learn what the person is like. I want to show what London is like, through the people who make it.”
A new internet sensation hit Facebook over the last few months. “Humans of New York“, a photography blog which shows people living in New York through a single photograph accompanied by an interesting quote, inspired people from all over the world to create other similar pages.
There are for example “Humans of Amsterdam“, “Humans of Paris” or London’s own “Humans of London City“.
I wanted to find out what the motivations are behind these pages, how the photographers find their pictures and what kind of person launched “Humans of London City” . Fortunately, I was able to meet up with the man behind that page for an interview.
Souleyman Messalti lived in Montpellier, France until he decided to go to university in London to study Multimedia Journalism. He always had a big passion for cameras and photography and became a fan of “Humans of New York” immediately after it launched.
Searching for a project with which he could take his photography further, he decided to grab his Fujifilm camera in third year of uni, and create a page similar to “Humans of New York” – for Londoners.
The site launched in March 2013 and almost 3000 people already liked it on Facebook.
Souleyman said: “The site is fastly growing. I get around 50 likes per day and it’s just incredible. I never expected it to become this big.
“Humans of New York was my inspiration to do this. I’ve thought about doing a photography project for a long time but I wasn’t too sure what to do until I came across Humans of New York.”
Since then, the creative student walks around London with his camera and a little notepad whenever he finds the time. “I try to take one picture a day, but it depends on what else I have to do. I love to explore the city and go to places where I have never been before”, he said.
“I’m not only looking for pretty people. I’m looking for people that look interesting and that look real and that look like they’ve got something interesting to say. The outer appearance is not always the most important thing and my photos and quotes show that. Through looking behind outer appearances the most interesting stories and viewpoints get revealed.
“The hardest part is to get good quotes”, he admits. “I normally start a conversation by asking ‘What are you up to?’ or by asking them about their best moment of their life and so on. And then they start to open up and reveal more and more of themselves most of the time.”
He told me that a lot of people don’t want to talk to him. He said: “I get a lot of rejection but I don’t take it personally and I don’t refrain from asking. I do understand that some people don’t want to talk about their personal life but I have to admit that it is frustrating sometimes.”
The most interesting person he ever met and took a photograph of was JR Artist . He said: “I’ve met him a few days ago. He’s a French artist and photographer who paints his images on houses, bridges and so on in order to make people realise that there’s not much difference between the people of this world. He’s a real inspiration.”
Souleyman now lives in East London and besides going to university, he writes for an online magazine called “Made in Shoreditch” and also runs his own online magazine called “Made in Camden”. His graduation is coming up next summer and he also does some event – and street photography. Seems like a busy schedule, doesn’t it?
But the open and friendly photographer doesn’t want to slow down and already has big plans for the future.
He said: “Humans of New York just published a book with the best photographs and quotes. The photographer behind it is just so good. I plan on publishing a book like this in the future, but I want the page to grow first.
“I don’t think I want to stay in London all my life. My biggest dream would be to become a photojournalist in conflict zones. I would like to change the world and open eyes by showing people what’s going on in other parts of this world. But for now, I’ll focus on Humans of London City. I know the page gives me valuable experience. It shows that I can talk to people, make conversation and reveal something. But for now – one step at a time”, he said.
Unsurprisingly other similar pages launched over the last few months. There is “Humans of London” for example, but unfortunately it is updated really rarely. Another site is called “Faces of London”, which opened only in July 2013. It has interesting photos and stories too, but in my opinion, “Humans of London City” is the best so far – not only because it has been online for longer. This one-man project shows the diversity of London in an unique way and Souleyman somehow manages to get the most interesting people in front of his lense.
It is just amazing how he manages to get these personal – sometimes touching, sometimes inspiring, sometimes funny – quotes from people he never met before.
Humans of New York already has over 1 million likes and hopefully “Humans Of London City” is going in the same direction. So go on Facebook and like his page. I guarantee that it’ll be worth it.