A few weeks ago we were at a Tech Startup event and ‘bumped’ into this amazing booth, where Brandon Doman was showcasing his project, called “The Strangers Project”.
The name instantly caught my attention and I stopped to learn more!
“The Strangers Project” is a compilation of 20,000+ handwritten, anonymous and spontaneous journal entries from strangers. They share some of the most important moment in their lives.
The book is called “What’s Your Story?: True Experiences from Complete Strangers” and it’s certainly a unique piece of art to have at your home. Or even, give it as a gift to someone you love!
So, after falling in love with his project, we decided to interview Brandon. We wanted to disclose his amazing story and project.
So, here it goes:
How did it all start?
“Back in 2009 I was sitting outside of a coffee shop. Hundreds of people were walking by and I found myself curious about their lives. An idea crossed my mind! “What would it take to get these anonymous strangers to share something about their life with me? What might we have in common besides being strangers?”
I took a marker from my bag and the notebook wrote: “Hi There! Please stop and share your story!”
I felt a little nervous propping it up on the table at first. I had no idea how people would react. Within the first few minutes, two women stopped at my table and pointed at the sign.”
They asked me, “What are you doing?”
I told them that I wasn’t really sure yet, and then asked if they would be willing to write something about their lives in the notebook. I told them it could be anything as long as it was true… and they began to write.
This is how I started collecting stories from strangers. These stories are collected face to face in public spaces around the country with a stack of blank paper, clipboards, and a lot of pens.
During this time I’ve met tens of thousands of strangers, and so far, over 20,000 of them have handwritten stories while sitting across from me during this exploration of spontaneous intimacy.”
What are some of the most amazing statements you’ve collected?
“This is always a hard question to answer because there are so many incredibly diverse and interesting stories that people have shared.
An important part of building the architecture of this project was creating something where people could share whatever they wanted without prompts—it’s simply a place to share, in your own words, something about your life.
They come in from all ages, all walks of life, and each end of the emotional spectrum. Some are short and silly, some are heavy and challenging, some are adventurous or exploratory. Because of that, we end up with these stories that resonate with people for very different reasons.
Some people enjoy finding stories that share a common thread to their own experiences, others like finding ones that share views and experiences that are very different from their own. This diversity allows us to both find connection and exploration of the infinite ways our lives unfold.
I know that doesn’t exactly answer your question, but my point is: it’s best to just explore.”
Has anything unique or surprising happened after you started this project, that you never really expected?
“I could talk about this for days. Nothing in the project is mailed in or sent in online, so that means I’ve had a chance to meet all 20,000+ people that have shared stories.
When I’m out collecting I always have hundreds of stories for people to read as well, so including the people that stop by to read, ask questions, and experience the project in other ways, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many tens of thousands of people I would have never met otherwise.
This in-person approach lends itself to all kinds of great experiences. Many people come back to read and share new stories over the years—some of them becoming good friends.
I’ve really enjoyed meeting fans from around the world who were following along online but then had a chance to find the project in the real world.
The Strangers Project has even been a part of three marriage proposals that happened through stories— one even spontaneously right on the spot.
I love being able to share the stories online, but my favorite part of the project is being able to create physical spaces for us to connect with our stories.”
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
“Each year I try to grow the project in different ways. This fall I have some big news:
The first Strangers Project national tour and documentary. There are so many experiences I have that I can’t easily share online. And, with this new endeavor, we’re going to change that.
These stories offer a brief glimpse into the intimacies of everyday lives, bridging meaningful connections between strangers. By creating a place for stories, we create space to understand each other and ourselves.
My goal is to take these stories to new communities, and to have a film crew join along. We’re crowdfunding right now to make this happen, so I encourage you to check out our video and get involved!”
Thank you, Brandon, for taking your time to answer our questions! It was amazing to learn a bit more about this fantastic journey!
If you want to see more information, take a look here.
In addition, Brandon currently has a pop-up installation up at Fountain House Gallery with hundreds of stories on the walls. He’ll be there daily until August 25th but, most importantly, they’re having a reception and fundraiser on Tuesday, August 23rd from 6pm – 9pm. You’ll be able to see numerous Stories alongside complimentary beverages, and more!
Lastly, if you’re a fan of buying photography books, you will probably love “The Borscht Belt: Abandoned Sites In The Catskills Region“.