Perth IT administrator creates Humans of Perth Facebook page

A GIFT from his wife inspired Jason Miller to step out of his comfort zone and start speaking to strangers.

The Padbury resident said she gave him a copy of Brandon Stanton’s book Humans of New York last December.

A week later Mr Miller set up a similar Facebook page for Perth, without realising there was already one for WA run by Stuart Holden, and started talking to people in the city during his lunch breaks.

The IT administrator said he got a camera from a friend when he moved to Perth seven years ago from New Mexico in the US.

‘I was struck by the diversity of Perth,’ he said.

‘I would take pictures of people I found interesting (but) I was too scared to go up to them and ask them anything.’

Initially for Humans of Perth, Mr Miller would try to get as many photos as he could, but then started talking to people for longer.

He said the project, which has attracted more than 23,000 likes, involved ‘random interactions with strangers’ rather than pre-organised interviews.

‘It’s very ‘judging a book by its cover’ ” I just go up to them and say ‘I find you interesting’,’ he said.

‘The best question I ask at the moment is ‘what’s your current struggle?’ It shows our humanity; it shows how we all go through ups and downs.

‘I ask different questions, like ‘what’s your happiest moment in your life?’

‘People will be open ” I’m just really touched that they all share.’

Mr Miller said at first he was afraid of rejection, but soon found there were plenty of other people willing to talk if someone said ‘no’.

‘Buskers are the best ” they are the ones that want the attention,’ he said.

Mr Miller said he focused on downtown parts of the CBD or alleyways, as well as Murray and Hay streets, and had occasionally found subjects around Hillarys Marina.

Although he might want to find out why someone is using a wheelchair or has tattoos covering their face, he said people who looked ‘completely ordinary’ surprised him with their stories too.

One was a woman (pictured) doing charity work, who after finding out what he was doing, asked why didn’t he do a post on her, so he asked how she got into the job. She told him she had been compelled to act after seeing a baby die in her travels in Asia.

Mr Miller said he did not take people’s names, and occasionally would post photos that did not show their faces, if requested.

Sometimes it was to highlight something unusual in their appearance, such as one man’s purple socks.

The father-of-one said he was glad he could reveal people with beautiful stories to Perth because he did not want them to be forgotten.

Humans of Perth

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‘I was travelling around Asia and there was this lady holding a one-year-old baby.
It stopped breathing and all the women around her screamed.
The mother took off towards the city with the baby in hand.
A local man said, nonchalantly, that the baby was bitten by mosquito and she was too late.
I got the feeling that this type of thing happened all the time.
Two hours later, we caught a tour bus back to the city and passed her along the way.
She was still running, with the baby in her arms.
All of us pointed her out. The locals carried on.
The bus driver’s mentality suggested this was the norm.
I saw a baby, not even a year old, die of a mosquito bite. I felt very sad for the mother and very fortunate for my circumstances.
This inspired me to do charity work.
Last week I raised $30k for a charity that helps women and children in need.’

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‘I was born in the Kimberleys. My life was good.
I grew up hunting porcupines, goanna, pythons, kangaroos and crocodile.
I took off from my mum at age 12 to support my five younger siblings.
I did bull catching and mustering cattle on a station in the Northern Territory.
My grandad was a drover and he said if I didn’t learn to read or write that he would send me back to school.
With a little help from him, I learned to read and write in the bush.’