The beauty of the project, one of several started in cities across the globe in light of Brandon Stanton’s immensely successful Humans of New York, lies not only within the photography itself, but within the photographer’s unabashedly honest interactions with his subjects, which are later transcribed and presented alongside the portraits.
We caught up with Mawdesley to find out more about Humans of Liverpool and share some of our favourite photographs and stories from the archive.
TRIP: What inspired you to start a project like this in Liverpool?
Jack Mawdesley: I’ve always thought that Liverpool has had a great contrast of people and culture, sort of similar, though on a smaller scale to New York. A contrast that I believe has gone very much unseen alongside the individuality and interesting hidden stories and lives that the humans of Liverpool have to share. I saw an opportunity to uptake a project that I had a profound fondness of already taking place over in New York. However, over here within a city I live right next door to. I was excited to bring something to Liverpool that hadn’t been there before, to give people an insight into the lives of the humans of Liverpool. Until this project I’d only touched on photographic portraiture lightly in the past so this was a completely new ball game for me. I thought what better way to develop this area than to take on this project based on portraiture, get out there, learn about, photograph and work with complete strangers? Go figure!
TRIP: The beauty of the project is the honest and frank interactions you have with complete strangers. Is it difficult to get people to open up to you, or are people more forthcoming than we’re lead to believe?
Jack Mawdesley: I’ve learnt over the course of the project that 99% of the time it’s all about how you approach a potential subject and the confidence you hold and give off. You have to be in a positive and outgoing mood, which as you can imagine can be very challenging to maintain for hours on end. It’s incredible how much I’ve learnt about body language and how simple phrases and words can make all the difference between meeting, learning and photographing a great person, or them saying “sorry not today thanks” or “erm, no you weirdo!”. When that happens you have to take it onboard and throw yourself right back into the game, it’s easy to take the knock and let being turned down bum you out. When that happens your confidence and mood vanishes! You have to be resilient, Get back on board and crack on!
I’ve always noticed a level of hostility and in some cases almost fear within people when they’re maybe in close proximity or in contact with another stranger. Personally I don’t believe this is natural, I think it is a northern attitude. It’s is something that is much less apparent down south i.e. London.
TRIP: Which is your favorite photograph and story so far?
Jack Mawdesley: I wouldn’t be able to put one person down as being ‘my favorite’. I believe each person I photograph and speak to has their own unique qualities and interesting perspectives. Sure I’ve met some cool characters, but each person is of great interest to me within his or her own right. Sometimes it feels less like I’m spending the day working on a photo project and more like a day spent chatting to strangers who I happen to take a photograph of.
TRIP: Have your perceptions of the people of Liverpool changed as a result of this project?
Jack Mawdesley: There has always seemed to have been a misconception that is held about Liverpool and its people, at least whilst I’ve been alive. One that I’ve always thought is a very naive and narrow-minded approach. Each location across the world harbors its pros and cons in lesser and greater quantities. Never the less, I firmly believe the ‘positives’ should be exposed and highlighted to bring the best out of people and places regardless. For me this project was an opportunity to express Liverpool and those who inhabit it from a greatly honest and straight up perspective, to show the REAL Liverpool.
TRIP: What have you learnt from the people you’ve met along the way?
Jack Mawdesley: People are magnificent, insightful and valuable. Talk to people!
"What is the best thing that has happened to you in the past year?"
"Well it’s not so much something that has happened to me personally but gave me the most incredible and overwhelming emotion. I traveled with my wife to Tanzania last year volunteering to do some aid work over there. We stayed for a number of months and during that time we took care of a young Tanzanian girl called ‘Teresia’. She was severely disabled. We had to feed her and dress her, it was so distressing to see, she was so helpless. Months there flew by, it was just an incredible experience. So we were ready to say our goodbye’s to Terasia and return to England. We were sat feeding her for the last time when something remarkable happened. Teresia managed to take the spoon off us, get some food and feed herself with no help from anyone else!. Of course a few spoon fulls went catapulting over her shoulder, but never the less, this vulnerable little girl somehow achieving something seemingly impossible for her managed to amaze us all. I can’t explain it, it was unexplainable, it was breathtaking.”
"Whats been one of your greater struggles in the past year or so?"
"Loosing my Grandad, he has been such a great influence for me. He was the glue that held our family together. It was just old age that took him, but he’s left behind such an amazing role model to us all."
"I’m the captain of a Squash team. We haven’t won any tournaments yet, but we never give up because we love what we do."
"What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in the last year or so?"
"It’s going to sound weird, but breaking up from a 4 year relationship. It’s something we can both agree was a good thing. When I look back at it, near the end it was just holding us back. We got together very young, matured together and grew apart together. I’ve developed so much since then. I’m more independent, more grown up and of course happier. I’m going to university soon, that’s my next chapter.”
"What’s been your greatest struggle?"
"Recovering from getting shot in the leg. It’s a long story."