You’ve certainly heard of Humansof New York, a collection of stories of people from the city, gathered randomly on the streets. It usually starts with a question: ,,May I take a picture of you?” and it can lead to a depth of people’s souls. In Prague we have our humans too…but I was particularly interested in one. The author, who is never seen on the photographs or talks about himself: Tomáš Princ.
What will decide if you approch the person or not?
On a busy street I pick someone who is visually appealing. But most of the times I approach someone sitting alone on the bench because it’s more likely that they would have time to talk.
What is their most common reaction?
Often they say ,,better not” and walk away, or they do not even look at me. In parks I’m more successful. They notice me at least and if they don’t want to talk to me, they decline in a polite way.
Does it happen that people are rude or aggresive?
Rarely. Over the three years and thousands of encounters it has happened probably only twice. I try to explain to them why I do it – not because they look weird. But sometimes they said: ,,fuck off”.
It’s probably not a very nice feeling to be rejected many times a day…
I don’t take it personally. People have reasons to behave like that. Maybe they have some problems in their lives or are in a hurry. I do not see inside their heads. So I better ask someone else, it’s simple.
When you go to the city to take pictures of people, how successful you usually are?
On a busy street where people are constantly stopped and offered something, they often do not even listen what I say to them. About 70% of people reject. But in parks more than a half agrees.
Humansof Prague is about men, women, old people, young…Are some groups of people more difficult to talk to?
It doesn’t work so well with businessmen for example. When I approach them near offices where they work, it rarely results in something interesting.
Often you talk to people in the last phase of their lives. Do you find any recurring thought in their stories?
Old people usually talk about their past. Over the years I’ve also realized how many old people face solitude.
You also talk with homeless people. Do their stories have something in common?
Homeless people are often pigeonholed. In reality each story about why people lost home is completely different.
The talks with people are often on a very peronal note. How do you achieve that within a couple-of-minute talk?
I try to fully focus on the people I talk to. If they are open, I listen to them, look for something special in their lives, and ask for details.
Do you recall any recent story, which has particularly touched you?
There was a young boy who was abused by his dad when he was a child. He talked very openly about what it had felt like and how it’s been affecting his life. We’ve met a couple of times and maybe that’s also why it was more intense than others.
What do you personally get from talking to people?
It brings together my hobbies: walking and photopraphy. Even before I used to go to the city to take pictures. And although I’m an introvert, I’ve always enjoyed talking to, and meeting, people.
For an introvert, isn’t it demanding to daily talk to strangers?
Some days I don’t feel like doing it but I always challenge myself. Ten years ago I would not have probably been able to do it. Since then I’ve met many different people and gained more experience. After graduation I went to South Korea to teach English or to Kenya where I communciated with people in slums. Once I was back, Humansof Prague seemed like a great idea. And after three years of doing it, it truly isn’t that hard to talk to people on the street.
You hear different ideas, points of views…have any inspired you in your life?
What I get is the positive energy. And when I’m in some situation I remember for example that other people have also experienced it and I think about how they solved it. But I cannot say that it would have too big an impact on me. I started with Humansof Prague when I was 28 and that’s the age when you already have many things sorted. More than a life guidance I look for diversity of people.
Popularity of blogs of all different topics has been increasing. How do you feel like a blogger?
Bloggers usually publicly share their lives and opinions and others can get inspired by it. My blog is different because I do not talk about myself but about others.
Bloggers are able to influence lives of many people. Your influence with a hundred thousand followers is also relevant.
People usually follow some blogger because they can identify with them. My blog is about diversity of people and every opinion is different. People start to follow Humansof Prague because they identify with some story but next day they find a story where the person has a completely different point of view from theirs. That’s why followers of Humansof Prague must be open to difference.
For many bloggers blogging is a job. What about you?
The first seven months it was only a hobby. In spring 2014 a Czech national newspaper (Hospodářské noviny) became a sponsor. They support me and I can devote to the blog three days a week without a need of advertisement.
Are companies interested in cooperation?
Some companies were interested but I declined. People like Humansof Prague for its content. However, the cooperation would bring benefit to me but not to the blog. I’m grateful for the support of the newspaper because they do not comment on the content.
This year you’ve become a Blogger of the year and you’ve got support to make a printed version of the blog. Are you interested?
Very much. At the moment I’m talking to various publishing houses and I hope it will work out.
Blog is an online medium. Do you think that it can work also as a book?
In social media people can comment on it and it makes sense it is online in the first place. However, it has its potential as a book too. The basis is a photo and a story and this can work also in print. It will be also a honour for me to see the result of my three-year work in one piece.
Is there an additional value for readers?
Not everyone has access to the blog online so in this way I can reach a new fan group. There are also more than a thousand of stories and the interesting ones are slowly disappearing in the amount. For the book I would choose only the most attractive ones.
A current phenomenon is that the content is born first online and only later as a book. Does it mean that internet is more successfull in reaching people?
It definitely is a good platform. But it reaches only a specific group whereas others still go for books. It’s a question of generation. The most important, after all, is the quality of content, no matter if it’s online or published.
Humansof Prague is a Czech version of Humansof New York. Is there any difference between them?
Humansof – projects are all over the world but each author is different and so is each encounter with people. The form of a story with a photo can be used in many ways. Some are more focused on photography, mine for example on stories. When I go through my archive, I see big changes over time. As I’m getting more experienced in talking to people, stories get more in depth.
One of the questions you ask people is: what have you been thinking of lately? What about you?
I focus more on work these days. I try to be critical to myself. Otherwise…I don’t even know. When I talk to people, they either talk about their work or they get more emotional and contemplate about their lives. But I’m probably not at a “philosophical”stage right now.
Tomáš Princ’s Humansof Prague