Brandon Doman started collecting stories from strangers on a whim in 2009—he was sitting outside a coffee shop, idly watching people pass by, when it occurred to him it’d be interesting to learn more about the strangers that crossed his path. So he put up a sign that read, “Hi there! Please stop and share your story!” He provided a notebook and pens, and let people write anything they wanted, as long as it was true.
Since then, Doman has collected over 15,000 anonymous “journal entries.” What started as a hobby has morphed into an incredibly impressive collection of personal stories, called “The Strangers Project.” According to DNAinfo, 600 of those personal stories are now on display at a pop-up show in New York City. The Evidence of Living exhibit, which runs through September 6, is an unprecedented opportunity to connect in person with the secrets and stories of hundreds of strangers.
Doman’s collection of journal entries is incredibly varied: some are funny, others confessional. One person writes about being adopted as a child, while another worries about a sick mother. Some of the writers filled the entire page with cramped writing, trying to include as much of their life story as possible. Others were more focused on what was happening in the moment—one entry that appears on Doman’s website simply reads, “I’m on a date with this girl I really like and I kind of want to kiss her but I’m nervous.”
The exhibit is also interactive. After reading the entries on display, visitors can leave behind their own stories. If you can’t make it to the exhibit in person, you can still browse the journal entries online at "The Strangers Project."