If anyone doubts that Dublin is a most human city, they need look no further than Facebook, which now features not one but two Humans of Dublin pages.
The inspiration comes from Brandon Stanton, a self-taught photographer, who created a social media phenomenon when he started photographing people on the streets of New York in 2010. He posted them, along with quotes, as Humans of New York to his photo blog and on social media.
The ongoing project has resulted in more than 6,000 portraits and a book and has picked up some 12 million followers on Facebook alone. His project has inspired others around the world to follow suit.
There are now two “competing” Humans of Dublin pages. The first was started by photographer Ruth Guest in January 2013. When she emigrated to work in London in July last year the daily feed of images was disrupted, and the page languished for a time, but then other photographers were recruited to continue the work.
Now back in Dublin, Guest (21) is working on expanding the feed into other social media, recruiting more volunteer photographers and a digital marketing intern. The page, which has more than 24,000 followers, is at facebook.com/humansofdublin1.
Enter photography student Peter Varga, who noticed the original page had become somewhat erratic. The Hungarian decided to start his own version last August and now has 10,000 followers. Varga (27) takes all the photographs himself, posts almost daily with the help of friend Caitriona Bolger, and now has a Twitter feed. His page is at facebook.com/thehumansofdublin.
The “Humans” formula, as created by Stanton, is to walk the streets in search of interesting subjects. With permission, a portrait is taken and a quotation from a brief interview accompanies it. Subjects are typically not named.
According to Guest, in a city such as New York, “where everyone wants to be famous”, that process is not difficult. In Dublin she found people shy, but over time has developed the skill of drawing them “out of their shell”. She and fellow photographers Steven Piece and Rachel Loughrey post about twice a week.
Varga is growing his audience quickly. A great post in the past week featured couple Sam Geddis and Claire Mitchell who decided to become engaged as he met them. He claims to spend longer interviewing his subjects and does tend to draw out fuller stories. Ultimately his ambition is to produce a book of photographs but his immediate target is to bypass the rival page.
Guest doesn’t regard the other page as competition, she feels it’s about the idea rather than a popularity contest. She has, however, acquired the humansofdublin.ie domain. The struggle for “humanity” on the streets of Dublin is set to continue.