Humans of Lewisham: telling everyday stories

Humans of Lewisham is inspired by Humans of New York: a blog capturing stories from people on the street. Pic: Humans of Lewisham

Humans of Lewisham is inspired by Humans of New York: a blog capturing stories from people on the street. Pic: Humans of Lewisham

The photo series Humans of New York has taken the internet by storm by sharing the emotional and often hilarious stories that New Yorkers have to tell. Now Pam O’Connor, web editor for Lewisham Homes has set up a Lewisham version of the popular web series.

For O’Connor, Humans of New York always struck a chord. “Together with some colleagues at Lewisham Homes we often talked about Humans of New York, and its inspirational and interesting stories,” she said.

“We loved the simplicity of sharing a conversation to capture a poignant moment or thought. Inspired by this we started Humans of Lewisham to celebrate people from our borough from all walks of life.”

But Lewisham is not quite New York. Where the creator of Humans of New York has a population of over eight million to play with, the team over at Humans of Lewisham have a significantly smaller population to explore.

O’Connor believes that her home town has just as much diversity and inspirational stories as anywhere else and it was this that pushed her to take the plunge.

“I’ve lived in Lewisham all my life. Lewisham has been classified as the ‘least peaceful’ place in England and Wales, but there are interesting people and communities here that get overlooked.

“At work, at Lewisham Homes, we are all about Lewisham. We’re ambitious for the borough and want to be part of celebrating its spirit and diversity.”

The majority of the focus of Humans of Lewisham is the residents of Lewisham Homes – a social housing organization – in an attempt to challenge stereotypes and spread positivity.

The group occasionally produce portfolios of the staff at Lewisham Homes and how they came to join the organisation.

Insightful stories from across the board range from children describing the chaos of year 3 to people finding the confidence to do what they truly want to do in life.

“Everyone’s got something to say but one of the people who has stuck with me was the young man with the immense thirst for knowledge,” O’Connor shared.

“I was fascinated and inspired by all that he’d achieved in his young life. His favourite quote has now become my favourite quote: “Life starts at the edge of your comfort zone.”

People coming up to you with the intent of taking your photo and finding out the intimate details of your life is quite a daunting prospect – one that many wouldn’t feel comfortable with. However, O’Connor has been pleasantly surprised by the support that the people of Lewisham have given to the ambitious project:

“We’ve been so happy at how people are willing to spend time speaking with us and being featured. Two of our resident’s photos and stories were featured in a national photography exhibition earlier this year, and they’re often liked and shared on social media which is lovely.”

It’s never straightforward nor without challenges setting up a new project, but for O’Connor, the most challenging part seems to be such a positive. For her it was deciding which part of a person’s story to share as opposed to the whole thing:

“Listening to people tell their stories, you can get caught up in their lives and because of that, editing those stories down has been challenging.

“When I first started doing this, I’d put everything they said out there. Now, I’m always thinking ‘where’s the story here?’”

You can follow Humans of Lewisham on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr to keep up to date with what the humans of Lewisham are doing.

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