By JOY BROWN
Initiating conversations with strangers is something that Dave Morrow fears, which is partly why he began a photography project that requires him to do just that every day.
“Stopping someone on the street, that terrifies me,” said Morrow.
To force himself to meet people, he has started Humans of Findlay, a Facebook page featuring people who live and work here.
The idea is modeled after street photographer Brandon Stanton’s popular Humans of New York blog, which features photos of random people spotted in public places, and includes some of their thoughts about life. Since its 2010 launch, the “HONY” blog has drawn more than 4 million followers and resulted in two books, and, it’s probably safe to say, sparked thousands of conversations and serendipitous moments.
Rather than be proprietary, Stanton has encouraged photographers in other communities to start their own “Humans of” projects. Several around the world have done so with tailored, targeted results.
Morrow said he started following Humans of Toledo, having no idea that it was a Midwestern spinoff of the original New York version. He said he contacted the Toledo project’s Joni Johnson for permission to feature Findlay.
“I didn’t want to invade anyone’s territory or step on any toes,” he said.
Morrow isn’t from Findlay, but has ties to it.
He was born in California. When he was 5, he was adopted by Findlay native Dorthy Culp. He has lived in different places throughout the nation. Seven years ago, he and his wife, Karna, moved to Findlay for her work.
The 56-year-old retired social studies teacher and self-described hobby photographer has been taking photos for the Findlay Fire Department for about seven months; volunteers as an educator for the Hancock Park District; and teaches first aid, CPR and emergency preparedness through the Hancock County American Red Cross.
Morrow said activities help him combat depression.
But he was also seeking an antidote to his shyness, something that would force him to be more sociable and to meet more people.
Humans of Findlay is his solution.
On April 2 he grabbed his Canon Rebel T3i and started the project. As of last week he said the page had received about 32,000 visits and, as of Thursday, had over 2,300 likes.
Unlike Stanton’s offerings, Morrow’s photos are in black and white, and the information about his subjects is positive.
“Black and white has always been a favorite of mine. It kind of strips everything down to reality. It makes it not about how pretty your dress is or how fancy the makeup is. It puts everybody on an equal footing,” said Morrow.
The photos themselves, he said, are about simple recognition, particularly for those who may have never had much of it.
“I like that it focuses on the average, everyday person. Like the school bus driver,” he said, referring to Janet Routzon, whose photo was posted on April 8. “When is the last time she got any exposure? When is the last time anybody noticed that for 40 years she’s been taking care of our children?”
“It’s about opening doors for people to be seen, and for me to have some courage,” he said.
Numbers and comments are indicating that people are liking what Morrow is offering.
The post on Routzon had received 177 likes by Thursday. A photo of Rosa and Raul Arredondo, who have been married for 72 years, had received over 500 likes.
“Everybody has something to offer. Everybody has some words of wisdom,” he said.
Morrow frequently asks people for a motto they tend to live by.
What’s his own? Since his teen years, “it’s always been pay it forward,” he said.
“I was 17 years old when a friend of mine and I ran out of gas in my 1967 Ford Mustang. We walked back to the nearest gas station, but didn’t have any money. I asked the station manager for some gas and he said no. But this other man who was there handed us $3. I asked him, ‘How can I pay you back?’ And he said, ‘Next time, you be the one helping someone else out.'”
Free publicity, however, is not the project’s aim.
Although inherently promotional, Morrow said he wants photos to be about each individual, not advertising for a business, organization, political campaign or other non-human venture.
He said he’s also being careful about who he approaches for the project. For numerous reasons, people over the years have become more guarded, private and protective, he thinks. Negativity can be present, but his goal for those who agree to participate is to accentuate the positive.
“In all my years of teaching, I never found someone whom I couldn’t find something positive about,” he said.
Morrow is limiting his posts to three per day.
“I think if you put too many people on, it overwhelms the audience,” he said.
Along with random shots, he is accepting referrals and setting up appointments.
Morrow said he is “blown away” by the response to his project so far. “I thought there would only be a few people paying attention to it,” he said.
Online: Humans of Findlay:
Humans of Toledo:
Humans of New York:
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