By April MacKinnon

Putting Down Roots: Humans of Sackville

An accidental community photography project leads to personal and business growth in unlikely ways.

Ian Chew, a 21-year-old self-taught photographer and full-time International Relations student at Mount Allison University was inspired by a project he saw on Facebook and turned it into a powerful  community gathering place and platform for his own personal and business growth.

Humans of New York is a street-photography project that features photographs and portraits of people in public places with short quotes telling their story.  Finding himself in Sackville, New Brunswick, far from his home in Malaysia, Ian felt inspired by a man he saw at a gallery opening and Humans of Sackville was born in September 2012.

“I saw this guy and liked his beard and wanted to take his picture.  I kind of made the story up on the spot.” …and so Humans of Sackville was born.

The image that gave birth to the community that is Humans of Sackville

His photography subjects are everyday people going about their daily lives.  He captures the moment beautifully and sums up their story in a concise caption.  The community that has gathered around this Facebook photography project has spun off to print publications in local newspapers and interviews with national media.  The commentary left by the public is kind, encouraging and positive in stark contrast to comments often left on social media where people feel anonymously able to say exactly what’s on their minds.

In a town with scarcely 5,000 residents Humans of Sackville has amassed over 3,000 followers eagerly awaiting the next photograph.  People with local roots living away check the page regularly to catch a glimpse into their hometown, many of them remembering what was beautiful about their upbringing and longing to ‘come home’.  Ian Chew, an individual whose own roots originate half a world away,  has become entrenched into the wider community for his eagerness to speak to born-and-bred locals as well as those who have chosen to make Sackville their home, building bridges between two communities for which there is sometimes a disconnect.

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