While Minneapolis residents may not know the name Stephanie Glaros, many have seen her photos.
Glaros blogs as “Humans of Minneapolis” (humansofminneapolis.tumblr.com) and has cultivated a following of thousands with her intimate street photography over the past few years. The blog localizes the concept behind Brandon Stanton’s vastly popular “Humans of New York” blog.
Glaros, a freelance photographer and teacher, joins an international “Humans Of” community of photographers who document the lives and stories of everyday people on the streets of their city. We caught up with her to ask her about the growing project.
How did you get started taking street photography?
Glaros: I first started taking street portraits in 2010. At that time I lived in the North Loop and walked back and forth to downtown every day. Up until then, I’ve done photography my whole life. I grew up with a dark room in my basement. On my route to work I found myself running into the same people every day, usually a population of people I wasn’t accustomed to interacting with. I found myself wanting to talk to them because it felt weird to see the same people and have nothing to say. For my first blog, “Flyover Country,” I would take photos of a lot of stuff I would find downtown. So I had my camera with me during my commute and I started asking people if I could take their photo in order to break down barriers. It felt like an easy way to talk to strangers.
When did it become Humans of Minneapolis?
I first called the project “Minneapolis Strangers.” I discovered Humans of New York early on back before it evolved into a storytelling project. I was in love with it instantly. I loved what Stanton was doing and how he was doing it. It revived an interest in me to re-launch the portrait blog. I then found out that hundreds of other people were doing other “Humans Of” pages in other cities around the world. I found a blog post from Stanton asking people to do their own pages, so someone was going to do it, so why not me? That was in August 2013. “Humans of Minneapolis” is now my creative outlet.
How have you connected to this international community?
It’s really been the surprising part of this project to feel part of a global community. I got invited six months ago to join a Facebook page of “Humans Of” administrators from all over the world. Now I have this place that I go where people are very active doing their own version of the project. You see other people putting their own spin on the concept. Mine is adding audio.
What’s your process of talking with strangers?
It’s pretty simple. I approach people and introduce the blog and myself. Sometimes they just say yes, which is always shocking to me, but a lot of times people just kind of get it. A lot of people have follow up questions. The third option is people just say no. I conduct the interview portion first, recording with a field recorder. I start with general questions that anyone could answer until something triggers a story. My process has really changed and I hope it continues to evolve with the project.
Is it ever awkward?
It’s not easy for me at all. It’s actually a fear of mine, but it’s a fear that I deal with by doing it. I find myself drawn to doing things that I’m scared to do. That’s the universe telling me this is something that’s worth doing. It gets easier. It’s a weird thing to approach a stranger on the street, but everybody’s got a story to tell. For me it’s all about finding the things that connect us as people. My experience has been that we as humans have more in common than we have things that make us different. I let people identity themselves as much as they want to. A lot of people that do it probably will never see it.
Stephanie Glaros, the human behind “Humans of Minneapolis.” Photo by Corey McNally.
What do you hope to do with ‘Humans of Minneapolis’?
I want to evolve and work on my interview skills, and continue to try to raise the bar technically as a photographer. I’m pretty much self-taught. I’d like to add video. What I’m really hoping to do is to expand this type of work beyond the blog itself. It’s a storytelling concept that could work for a lot of different places — editorial, businesses or anyone who wants to tell a story. It’s a bit unique. I’m trying to give a voice to other people.
What do you hope readers get out of the blog?
What I’m trying to do is increase empathy. The best way to do that is to get people to identify with anyone who you might see as different from yourself. Rather than looking at someone and assuming A, B and C about them, I want people to instead remember that all people have stuff in common simply by the fact we’re human beings. When you’re sitting on the bus or whatever you’re doing with your day, maybe it might inspire people to be less afraid to just talk to strangers. I find that I’m way more inclined to just strike conversations with strangers because I enjoy it. If I could possibly inspire people talk to each other and look each other in the eye, I would love that.
Do people ever ask you questions?
Not very often. After once we’re done, someone might say why do you do this, but not very often. For some reason, opening up themselves in a really personal way seems to be enough. A basic need as human beings is to be seen and recognized. I think we all crave that and I think that that’s what people get back from me in a way. I think that people a lot of times are surprised and a bit flattered that someone would take the time to stop them when they could have stopped anyone else. In many cases, that’s enough and it doesn’t need to go further than that.
Any plans for this year?
I think this is going to be a big year for me with the project. In 2015, I want to focus on it even more and see what happens. As long as people are interested I want to keep doing it and see what happens.
Photos by Stephanie Glaros, “Humans of Minneapolis”