People and Their Stories

I think it is often easy to get caught up in how different we all are, how our skin color is different,  our age, or our way of expressing or identifying ourselves through our attire or  hairstyle.  We identify others as belonging to one group or other, perhaps with the assumptions that therefore we have nothing in common, that the other person is too different to understand us and for us to understand them.  We may even deem them as not interesting.   It is easy to dismiss others as different and leave it at that.  But it is not that simple.  Each of us have been formed by our own unique path in life, and each one of us has their own story.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

I think this is one of the hardest concepts to accept, and I know I struggle with it sometimes.  Some of my most unexpected friendships formed with people with whom, at first glance, I would have assumed I have nothing in common with.  But upon hearing their story, I find that I understand them, and how they came to be who they are and can relate to them in a way I was not able to before.  One of my favorite moments abroad was when I was taking photographs and talking with the locals in El Canton, Honduras and one of the leaders of the community (below, in white hat) came up to me and asked me to share their story and photographs with everyone when I returned home.

He was eager to take the opportunity to share his community’s struggles and accomplishments.  He was excited to have his story be told in far away places and to make that connection with people who he otherwise would have no way of reaching.  People want their stories heard.  And moreover, these stories are worth listening to.  As a visual person, I love when the concept of the story is intertwined with images.  I came across two photography projects that encompassed this concept beautifully:

First, there’s Brandon Stanton’s The Humans of New York.  What is so great about his work is that he attaches a story to every photograph he takes.  Sometimes they are short and sweet:

“I’m a sculptor.”
“What kind of sculptures do you make?”
“Well, it’s a visual art. I’m not exactly going to be able to use words to transfer what’s in my head to your head.”

Sometimes, these stories are longer:

I stumbled upon a National Treasure yesterday.

I was walking down 3rd Avenue when I noticed an old man in a wheelchair. He was being pushed by a caretaker. Despite his physical condition, he had dressed with extreme care. He wore an outlandish yellow outfit. Everything about him was yellow, from his shades to his socks. Intrigued by his appearance, I bent down and asked for a photograph. He silently nodded approval.

After I’d taken his photograph, his caretaker offered a formal introduction: “This isBanana George,” she said, “the world’s oldest barefoot waterskier. He’s 97 now. When he was 92, he set the world record for the oldest person to waterski barefoot.”

Banana George didn’t even begin waterskiing until he was 40. But it soon became his passion. So much so that he began doing shows at Cypress Gardens– hopping jumps and riding with women on his shoulders. In the course of his career, he’s broken his back 4 times. He’s also broken his ankle, knee, and eleven ribs. Banana George waterskied until the last possible moment. I’ve seen footage of a very old George being pulled through the water in a wheelchair-on-skis, smiling like a madman.

Here you can see a short video I found of Banana George skiing on his 90th birthday:

Banana George is a testament to loving life, and he deserves to be celebrated. I discovered that his family set up a fan page for him. It only has 835 people so far. Let’s show George how much we love his spirit, and join his fan group:

If you think Banana George deserves to be known, please SHARE this story. And in the words of Banana George: “Don’t wait for the next thing, make the next thing happen!”

You could spend DAYS on Stanton’s page:

The second project is One by Nicolas Ritter.  Likewise, it focuses on creating stories but in a very different way.  Here are two of my favorites (look closely, they move!):

I absolutely love this concept.  Ritter talks about imitating the human eye, we do not have the ability to watch everything at once, but instead focus on mini scenes within.  But I also think this correlates to the idea that everyone has a story.  Although Ritter does not include a verbal story with his photographs, this isolation of one moving figure forces us to create a story about them, imagining what they are doing there, how they got there and where they are going.  Moreover, it treats each of the individuals as an individual, not simply as part of a crowd.  The image does not generalize, does not assume and does not stereotype but instead forces us to slow down, notice the details and imagine what it must be like to be in someone else’s shoes.

Here’s Ritter’s website,

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