When you’re 16, the world is at your reach. When you’re 16 and live in Paris, you know its people, streets and secrets a whole lot better than Google and Wikipedia put together. What you do next, is setting up a project – photography + short stories – to share that beauty with the others. Marco Hazan and Eytan Levi are two Parisian teenagers who one day wrote to Brandon Stanton, got his “Ok” and on the next morning, launched their own HO: Humans of Paris. Today, they are among the oldest (!) “Humans of” initiatives worldwide and are looking ahead. When you’re 16, nothing can stop you. Ok, the final exams in History and French can suspend you from posting… for a couple of weeks.
“For us, the real Paris isn’t only the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Of course we do like those places very much but beyond them, there are some hidden gardens, streets and gems really worth seeing. We’d like to share that Paris with our followers”, says Eytan Levi, co-founder and artistic director of Humans of Paris.
You’ve been among the first “Humans of” pages. Tell us more about how it started.
Eytan Levi: We discovered Humans of New York on Facebook a year and a half ago. We already had a photography page, but since we really liked Brandon Stanton’s project, we asked him if we could start a “Humans of Paris” initiative. He was really nice and helped us grow our page during the first days.
Sounds obvious, but why Paris?
E: Paris is the city where we were born and we have always lived in. We’ve both travelled to various countries, but Paris is still one of my top favourite cities among a few others such as San Francisco, Amsterdam, Geneva, Montreal, Jerusalem or Stockholm.
Humans of Paris is (slightly) different from other HOs. Difference no 1: the “fashion cut” that other Humans haven’t.
E: Since Paris is one of the most important places in fashion industry, we couldn’t make this project without that “fashion cut”. Then, there is such a unique spirit in Paris during the fashion weeks! We try to spread this atmosphere through the pictures we take in that period.
B: Difference no 2: a logo. Other HOs we’ve talked to so far, haven’t.
E: I drew it myself a year ago. :)
B: Who are the humans you choose to photograph?
E: At first, we were photographing basically everyone. But after more than a year of experience, we’re now able to guess if someone will or won’t let us take his or her picture. For example, we know that college students and people who have their “own special style” will often accept.
Story or photo, which is more important? Is it hard to get people talk?
E: A good picture is what we need first. The story can make it stronger. Some people don’t have anything to say or don’t want to say anything. But since we’ve taken their picture, most of them don’t really care and tell us what they’re doing, where they’re going and if they have anything else to say.
When we don’t really like what people say, we sometimes put our own caption about them, such as a quotation that matches with the picture or a very short description.
“Humans”, not “People”. What’s your view on this?
E: “People” sounds to me too general and means everyone, whereas “Humans” indicates just a few selected people that would represent very well – in such context – the city where they live in.
Do you have some future plans or long-term goals?
E: We don’t really have any particular goals. I know that many “Humans of “ want to print a book with their pictures, but we don’t really want to do that for now. We’re thinking to create a website for our project maybe.
Humans of Paris in five words..?
E: Haha, I only found something in 6 words, I hope it will work: “Trying to make you understand Paris”.
Is “Humans of” phenomenon closer to Wikipedia or Google Maps?
E: This is such a good question! I think it’s closer to Google Maps and it would be quite interesting to be able to “pin” the exact location of the pictures.
“I saw these two girls on a sunny afternoon in a place I had never been to before in my life – Arsenal, which is a small harbor next to the River Seine. It was quite windy, and I found their hair – which was floating in the air – extremely interesting for a picture. When I posted the picture, I realized that there was something very unique in their expression and in their eyes.”
“This picture was taken with Marco, the other co-founder of Humans of Paris. After we had taken the picture, we showed it to them and the girl said “We are too black, you’d have to alter the picture!”, which we obviously didn’t. I though her reaction was interesting, since they were very photogenic in my opinion. Our fans really appreciated this photo.”
“Sometimes, Art is only grey stuff on a white canvas, but this is Art.”
“I was crossing a street when I met this girl. I really liked her outfit, so I waited for her to cross the street to ask her to pose. When she told me she was Danish, we started to talk about Denmark. Eventually, she said she was working at the Danish Church of Paris and the black dog was the priest’s dog. I’d never talked before to someone who was working in a church, nor imagined that she would be religious. That’s the wonderful part of the story – it’s not possible to judge someone just from the way she /he looks.”
“It was basically impossible to have those three South Koreans looking all at the same time at the camera. But never mind, we got this picture anyway.”For more information about Humans of Paris please visit the official Facebook page. For more information about the HO phenomenon read Ode to the Humans.
Words and interview by Jurgita Po.Alessi