Humans of Nelson leaps from screen to book

What began as an experiment is about to become a book.

The cover of the proposed Humans of Nelson book

What began as an experiment is about to become a book. Humans of Nelson, a project that has been charming legions of followers through Web and Facebook pages, will make the leap to the printed page this fall. A Kickstarter campaign to get the ball rolling launches August 8.

The project has come a long way since photographer Ryan Oakley (seen below) took the first shot, on his lunch break from his job as an engineer with the Ministry of Transportation.

“My heart pounding,” says Oakley. “I was thinking: Don’t do it! You’ll embarrass yourself! And then I thought: What have I got to lose?”

The very first person said no. But the next one said yes, and Humans of Nelson was born. There are now 220-plus captivating images of Nelson folk on the website,, and the Facebook page has been embraced with 5,786 likes.

Oakley was inspired by the Humans of New York project by photographer Brandon Stanton, which in turn has inspired spin-offs in major cities like Amsterdam and Paris. Nelson, thought Oakley, deserved to be in their company.

Oakley looks for interesting, approachable-looking people to photograph and conducts friendly mini-interviews. The results are sometimes telling, often charming commentaries that complement images of people of all ages and from all walks of Nelson life — and even a few dogs.

“A book just seemed the next logical step,” explains Oakley. “There is something about having a book in your hands. And when it’s a book about the people in your town — the interesting, the off-beat, and the regular folks — I think it’s an opportunity to celebrate what it is that makes Nelson … Nelson.”

Oakley is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing project, a full colour hardcover photograph book designed by Nelson’s Steven Cretney of The Forest Design. Anne DeGrace, publisher of the photographic coffee table book Nelson, British Columbia, is assisting with the project.

“It’s a great team,” says Oakley. “The book will be beautiful, and a dream come true.”

Contributors to the campaign will receive a signed copy of the book, as well as other rewards based on the level of contribution. The goal is to raise $10,000 by August 23. $1 for every book sold through the campaign will benefit local charities. The book will launch this fall in a multimedia event at the Nelson Civic Theatre.

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