In 2010, Stephanie Glaros began walking to work in downtown Minneapolis with a Canon 5D Mark III camera around her neck, asking the people she encountered along the way if she could take their photographs. She did this in an effort to break through the social barriers she felt between herself and others. The practice became a personal project called Minneapolis Strangers, and it took her completely out of her comfort zone. She relaunched the project in 2013 as Humans of Minneapolis, inspired by the storytelling project Humans of New York and other “Humans of” projects around the world. She shared her photographs and interviews online, developing a social media following of over 70,000, and published the book Humans of Minneapolis in 2016.
While researching her book, Glaros got back in touch with many of her former subjects to find out if their interviews had led to anything larger. She learned that when people’s stories were shared, it often created a ripple effect of positive changes. Her subjects made connections both online and in real life. One interview helped convince a small town in Canada to hold its first Pride parade. Another helped bolster the family of a man dying of cancer. Many subjects expressed gratitude, saying the positive comments from followers helped build their personal confidence.
Glaros realized that the people following her project are a special group. They are positive and supportive. They are genuinely curious about others. And when a subject expresses a need, they almost always offer to help. For years, Glaros wanted to harness this goodwill in a responsible way but knew she needed support to make it happen.
That’s when the Humans of Minneapolis nonprofit organization was born. This evolution serves two purposes: to strengthen the project’s mission of connecting people in meaningful ways and to provide the structure needed to make the work sustainable. The nonprofit provides opportunities for people to help each other and interact with those they normally wouldn’t, fostering connections that Glaros hopes last for years to come.
“I want to take the platform I’ve built and use it to make a real impact, and I think Minneapolis is a great place to do it,” says Glaros. “It’s big enough to have people of many different backgrounds who can learn from one another. But it’s small enough that you could run into people on the street who you’ve ‘met’ on Humans of Minneapolis. People can help the organization at whatever level they are comfortable with and see the impact on the ground. I hope people will join us in our mission to make our community feel more connected.”