Humans of St. Louis: From social media to publication

ST. LOUIS – Humans of St. Louis is turning ten years old this year and is celebrating with a big milestone: a novel of shared stories.

The nonprofit organization shares the lives and stories of people in the St. Louis area, modeling the Humans of New York project, which began in 2010. With over 130,000 combined followers across social platforms, it has grown to be the second most popular “Humans of” site in the country, following New York, according to the HOSTL website.

“Other ‘Humans of’ sites around the world—Amsterdam, Dublin, New York—they’ve all done publications, and we thought, ‘What would it look like if we tried?” Lindy Drew, lead storyteller, said.

The initial attempt didn’t have much success, but that didn’t deter the organization. After creating a Kickstarter, the community jumped in to help, which allowed the book to be self-published and kept local.

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In November 2022, the first print run sold out within a month. With more copies released to the public, HOSTL hopes to ensure everyone gets one.

The aim of the project is to shed light on an array of subjects, including economic growth, small businesses, racial equity, LGBTQ rights, aging, disease, education, poverty, and more.

People often say, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ but HOSTL does the exact opposite. Drew says she will walk up to someone and start a conversation for five minutes to an hour, and then capture their photograph.

“We did something really different with the book, because in the actual (social media) feed, people are scrolling and see one photo story a day,” Drew said. “But in the book, you have this chance to create a moment when you turn the page (thinking), ‘What (am I) going to see next?'”

The Humans of St. Louis book is on sale in local book stores or on their website.

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