Photographer, writer and editor Cathy Teesdale discovered the HONY project in late 2013 and found it so inspiring that she decided to start up her own London version on Facebook and Instagram. Having lived in the capital for almost 30 years says, Cathy says she “only truly fell in love with this big, beautiful city when I started really seeing and listening to so many of its people as part of my Humans of Greater London/HOGL project.
Now one of over 500 Humans of… pages around the world, Cathy see’s HOGL as part of a growing movement to expand empathies to “restore some much-needed faith in humanity, and actively counter the depressing negativity of so much of today’s news with hope and inspiration too.”
After almost three years scouring London’s streets for stories, Cathy and her publisher decided it was time to put together her favourite pictures and stories into a swanky new book (we’re so glad she did).
The result is a beautiful book of over 250 awesome pictures of Londoners from all walks of life. As with the New York version, all the intimate shots are accompanied by revealing, and at times, incredibly emotive confessionals.
We asked Cathy to choose a few of her favourites from the book:
“He loves anything with slapstick in it. He really likes to laugh, make fun and play jokes. He’s not a difficult child at all. But he doesn’t really speak. We communicate mainly through sign language, though some of his signs – we have absolutely no idea what they mean. He is who he is. We just roll with it.”
Stella and Lyra
“They’re both almost three, very funny and best friends, and they call this space the Kitty Kat Garden because they’re always coming here to find the cat.”
“Nothing prepares you for that word ‘cancer’. When someone tells you you’ve got it, it does knock the stuffing out of you. I went and sat in my car and I cried and thought ‘This can’t be’. My wife came and sat with me, and she let me cry, and then she said ‘Well, what are you going to do? You never quit on anything.’ So I faced the problem, I got the treatment and, fortunately for me, I’m now cured. Prostate cancer is a silent killer, affecting 10,000 men a year in the UK, so I started offering my customers a 20% discount on the cost of their car repairs if they’d go and get their prostate checked, telling them that it’s as important to MOT their bodies as their cars. Since then, thirty of my customers have been diagnosed and 28 have survived.”
“Back when I was working in the IT industry and suited-and-booted was the way to go, I used to dress down as much as I could—I would go to the office wearing a T-shirt with ripped sleeves, held together with safety pins, and a cricket hat, walking around the office barefoot. Then, when dressing down became the norm, I thought ‘Well, screw it, I’m going to dress up!’ So I started dressing like Oscar Wilde.”
“I come up from Devon to get away from my dad—both my parents are heroin addicts—and I’ve been living rough, on and off, for about three years. Then, two years ago, I had just a little cut on my foot and it developed an infection called pseudomonas, which is antibiotics-resistant, so I’ve ended up with this massive hole where you can see the bone and all the nerves are exposed too so it’s ridiculously painful. I’m so happy to be in my own flat now, I can’t even tell you! It also really helps you, reading all these kind words from all these lovely people, offering their support and wishing you the best. It makes you think ‘Aw, lots of people do care, even ones that have never met you’. It’s really nice. It gives you hope, and it’s a very big change from feeling invisible on the street.”
“My third husband was the love of my life. I married him when I was thirty-eight and he was twenty-two and we were together for twenty-four years, but then he died suddenly, fifteen years ago. For about two months I kept doing silly things like putting my keys down the loo, leaving the door open, forgetting where I lived–it was the weirdest feeling, like I was dreaming. I went to the doctor’s and they said ‘It’s not grief, it’s shock.”
Kristina and Anna
“We’re planning to get married next year and have kids, one each, and we’ll carry on living in London because there’s more freedom here for the way you feel, to express yourself. The whole world should be like that. Maybe in the future. You’re the most advanced country in the world in that way, I’d say.”
“I can cry when I’m singing. I try to disguise it sometimes because it can be very emotional, but I try to live the song, rather than just sing it, you know? I came from a musical family in Dublin and my earliest memory of music was when I was five years old, listening to the radio with my mother, and hearing Motown. It was like electricity, like being plugged in for the first time. It was like this drug!”
“I do struggle with understanding why the world is the way it is. I really wish people would wake up, see the beauty of the world all around them and care more, realise that they could do things with a different consciousness and stop destroying themselves. It makes me really sad.”
“I was always creative, even as a child. My mum always let me do what I liked because my grandmother was quite strict with her, she didn’t really let her do what she wanted. I was born in Russia and when I was 12 we came to England. Once I was here I saw gay men and I found them so exciting, coming from Russia where men are so macho, so straight. So I became really fascinated with drag and when I went to art school I wrote my dissertation on it and, for a while, I even pretended I was a drag queen. I’m also a huge feminist. I believe in independent women with power who do what they want. Now I make wearable art because I want to bring happiness and colour to people–when you walk on the street, so often everyone is so grey!–and to make them feel like they can do whatever they want as well.”
Humans of London
by Cathy Teesdale
Michael O’Mara Books