LIVING

The Hello Project Captures The Beauty Of How Similar Canada Can Be

07/28/2015 03:50 EDT | Updated 07/28/2015 05:59 EDT
Spencer Wynn

It's a red and white sticker that simply says a person's name, but photographer Spencer Wynn sees something completely different.

The Toronto-based freelance photographer, who was formerly the deputy art director for the Toronto Star, is using his visual talents to profile and shoot Canadians (and dogs) of all walks of life. He calls his venture "The Hello Project."

"It always amazes me that nobody acknowledges anyone on the streets. Nobody ever nods or says, 'hello,'" he tells The Huffington Post Canada. "Everyone is so absorbed in their mobile devices as they walk. This is a fun way to poke a stick at those mobile walkers and make the world seem a little smaller by the simple act of saying 'hello.'"

Wynn began his project in the summer of 2014 when he was in Mongolia and started posting pictures of his subjects in January of this year. He told himself he would launch a year-long documentary project, giving strangers a "Hello, my name is..." tag and having them share their stories about visiting or living in the Great White North.

"I tell [strangers], they are a part of a year-long portrait project and will be one of many. Almost everyone says yes. A few say no, but that's the exception," he says.

When he meets his subjects, Wynn typically asks them where they were born, what their days are like, what gives them passion and a fun fact which often ends up being an interesting side story. To date, he has photographed 202 people, from moms to skaters to non-Canadians, like athletes from Guyana visiting Toronto for the Pan American Games.

"My goal is to have one Hello each day of this calendar year."

It takes Wynn over an hour to work his magic, from taking photos to editing them to writing a detailed story.

"It has been a wonderful experience getting to know total strangers and to feel a connection with them even for a short time. On occasion, I have been honoured by them opening up, sometimes in tears as they speak of deeply personal experiences," he says.

And while he is familiar with the work of other similar photo projects like Humans of New York, Wynn says it didn't inspire him when he first started. For him, it was a way to continue his love for visual journalism and storytelling, something he calls alternative story forms.

Check out some of our favourite shots by Wynn below, including each subject's personal story. You can find his whole collection — and there are plenty to look through — over at the project's Facebook page.

  • The Hello Project
    "A father of two, he is keeping tabs on his daughter who is just learning to drive and has many questions. 'Will she make mistakes? Sure, but I hope they will be minor ones,' he says of young people learning to drive." Read Clint's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "When Bek is not behind the counter, she is a volunteer birth support worker for expecting and new parents from marginalized communities. She supports mothers in labour and provides postpartum counselling, assistance with nursing and helps clients to adjust to a new baby in the house." Read Bek's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "Anju has never had a bank account, bought groceries or driven a car. She was coddled and she was bright. Having earned a PhD in Developmental Biology, she was smart academically, but knew little of the world." Read Anju's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "A graduate of exceptional standing from When Hounds Fly, Beaker enjoys long days of meditation on his queen-size bed and drags himself out to mark a bit of territory in his Bloor and Church neighbourhood." Read Beaker's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "Born in Toronto, Ravi, like many others in the police services, began his career in a completely unrelated field. Ravi went to school studying biology before he moved into the area of policing. From Toronto's 53 Division, Ravi has been a police officer for 10 years." Read Ravi's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "[Danni] lived in a big white house in Fayette, Iowa for several months as a guest artist at the Upper Iowa University. Not being a driver, she bought a bicycle and would often be seen traveling large distances along cornfield-lined roads for inspiration!" Read Danni's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "Francesco Russo's light blue eyes dance when he speaks of being born in Calabria. He was born in the the picturesque 'toe' of Italy, but moved to Canada in 1972 after visiting as a tourist." Read Francesco's story here.
  • "Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Lubna Khalid arrived in Canada in 2000 as a young bride in an arranged marriage. She was a stay-at-home mom assuming traditional roles. 'In our culture men provide and women say home. That’s all our women were doing despite being well educated.' Read Lubna's story here.
  • "At 4' 8" tall, Simon is one of only 40 Canadians with Hunter Syndrome (MPS II), one of a group of six rare metabolic disorders. He has spent his life working to bring awareness to this rare disease." Read Simon's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "When Will came to Canada, he felt people could not understand him even though he could understood everyone else. He often had to repeat himself, even still today with a beautiful but still heavy accent. 'When you come from a place like Zimbabwe, everyone is black. All of a sudden, you come to Canada and you feel like you stand out,' Will says of some of the feelings he had when he moved to Canada." Read Will's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "Since her birth in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 74 years ago, the energetic Sylvia Gethons-Green has been on the road. Her dad moved around a lot while she was growing up, and as a nurse she has worked in many locations around Ontario over the past 40+ years." Read Sylvia's story here.
  • The Hello Project
    "Two skaters, Jesse Stains and his friend Jacob Apps, both from Uxbridge, Ontario have made the trip to Toronto's Underpass Park to ride the rails, test their jump skills and enjoy the park with other skaters." Read Jesse and Jacob's story here.