One day last month it occurred to me that I've taken headshots for people from quite a few different countries. I started to count the countries on my fingers.
When I ran out of fingers I decided to put together a gallery of headshots from around the world, marking the countries on a map. That in turn inspired me to try to complete the whole map and so "The Humans" project was born; I'm going to try to take a headshot of at least one person from every country on Earth.
Today is the International Day of Peace. Set up in 2001 by the UN, International Day of Peace occurs on the 21st of September every year. The theme this year is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All”, and that got me thinking...
Photography is very much a partnership between photographer and subject. When I think back on all the wonderful people I've shared this partnership with, every single one was unique, yet every single one was so very much akin to me as well.
"People are pretty much alike. It's only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities" - Linda Ellerbee
When you point a camera in someones face (especially a really big camera) they are very much laid bare. The main job of a photographer becomes to connect with them, support them, and build their confidence back up again. Some people just need distracting with conversation while some need significant reassurance and help. Some just love the experience from start to finish. Regardless, it's always a pleasure to share that experience with them.
One thing I've noticed is that while accents and skin colour might vary a bit, we humans are all very much alike once we step in front of a camera. We all have our fears and insecurities, courage and confidence. Yes, people are all different in their own small and fascinating ways but deep down we are also so similar. As for any national differences? I have yet to see any.
The national stereotypes we believe in turn out to be nonsense when applied to individuals. It's such a shame we need to burden ourselves with these ideas of nations and national identities and then use them as reasons to hate each other.
"We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race." - Kofi Annan
Looking to the future though, the world is slowly shrinking and connecting more every day. All the ups and downs and the current crises are just the bumps in the road. There have much bigger bumps in the past and we got beyond them. The internet and cheap, fast travel have brought us all a lot closer together and the world is a smaller, more open place than it's ever been before.
At no point in human history have so many ordinary people had such culturally varied and international communities of friends. As we mix and get to know each other, our fears and mistrust tend to fall away because we discover all we have in common.
Most of our current world leaders grew up in the years immediately after WWII. In another generation or two, world leaders will be people who have grown up in this new, more connected age. Perhaps then peace won't be in such short supply.
"There are no nations! There is only humanity. And if we don't come to understand that right soon, there will be no nations, because there will be no humanity." - Isaac Asimov
Once the states of the USA were are war, now they are one nation. Europe has spent its entire recorded history at war, yet now we have almost no borders. We may argue endlessly but at least we are not bombing each others cities into the ground these days.
Hopefully things will continue to improve during my lifetime; when I get down to my last few countries I may well have to start touring the world to cross them off the list! So far though, all these people have come to me - an Englishman living and working in New York, a place which is starting to feel strangely like home.
Visit my The Humans page to see my progress so far, or just to look at the wonderful faces of some humans from around the world.