Since 2013, a Batley-born IT consultant has been taking pictures of strangers on the streets of Leeds. Based on the wildly successful Humans of New York photoblog, Humans of Leeds serves to provide an insight into the lives of inhabitants of this dynamic City. The exhibition, entitled Sonder: ‘the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own’, is a showcase and celebration of Z’s work.
Taking up residence at Lambert’s Yard on Lower Briggate, at 6pm on Thursday 22nd October the doors of the four hundred year old building opened to a queue of people, with some even speculating if Z was attending his sell-out night. A few photographed faces also made an appearance, thrilled to be seeing their portraits on view in a public space.
Inside, low-key lighting and acoustic covers played by The Keatings Band set the tone, creating a relaxed environment for guests to gather and sip beer provided by Leeds Brewery Company. The red brick walls were adorned with a selection of Z’s portraits, captioned with compelling anecdotes and insights of those photographed. A broad range of people captured were on show, from a monk, to a Sikh, to a wheelchair-bound graduate; a snapshot of Leeds’ diverse ? inhabitants. Their personal quotes, some heartening, others very moving, all appeared to resonate with people, acting as topics of discussion throughout the night. Captions on display included:
- “I became a monk because I wanted to bring peace and happiness to the world, devoting myself to the happiness of others. I’ve been a monk for 23 years.”
- “I like expressing myself through my clothes; it’s like saying something without opening your mouth. I only found my true self a few years ago. You have so many distractions in life, you get side-tracked, with kids and then grandkids. You miss things and don’t have time for yourself. Only after all that has passed do you get time when it’s just you. That’s when you come out in yourself; you find your true self.”
- “I’ve just come from dropping my sister off at her exam. She suffers from severe anxiety, so she does well just to get in. Last year we had to literally pick her up out of bed and drag her to University just to get her there, which wasn’t fun at all. It’s overwhelming for her, feeling that she can’t do it, but ironically she’s really clever, talented and does so much revision.”
Guests soon gravitated towards the focal point of the room, a large slideshow projection displaying more of Z’s photographs. Again, there was a clear juxtaposition of personalities, hitting home how diverse Leeds is as a city. Some people were flamboyant with lots of piercings, radical haircuts and extravagant clothes, whilst others were more conservative in their appearance, dressed in workwear. Without the accompanying captions, their stories were instead left to the imagination of observers to conjure up.
Closing at 10pm, the room stayed busy for 4 hours, proving to be very popular. The buzz surrounding the exhibition is likely to continue into the forthcoming months, with portraits changed regularly by Pressision Ltd.
Follow Humans of Leeds on Facebook - facebook.com/humansofleeds and Tumblr - http://humansofleeds.tumblr.com/ for more of Z’s work.