A chance encounter with a stranger in Saint John has led to a local photographer chronicling the lives of people he had never met in the city.

Chris Donovan's Humans of Saint John project was inspired by a similar photo-essay in New York

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This man wanted to be photographed showing his good side - the one without the tattoo of a Nazi symbol that he's now embarrassed about. (Chris Donovan)

In it, poignant tales are told:

  • A man warns of the dangers of drugs after spending 25 years in prison after trying to rob a pharmacy.
  • A younger man tells of his regret at having a Nazi symbol tattooed on his face.
  • A guitarist with pictures of kittens on his guitar tells of venturing out on the city's streets to play for anyone who will listen.
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Chris Donovan has told the stories of hundreds of Saint John residents in his Humans of Saint John project (CBC)

It all began after the 18-year-old Donovan was inspired after being approached by a stranger.

"A man came up to me and asked if he could tell me a story, so I said, `Yes,'" said Donovan.

"He was dying of brain and lung cancer and he really wanted to tell his story before he died,'' he said. "He died in February."

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Chris Donovan was inspired to tell the stories of Saint John by this dying man's tale of living with cancer. (Chris Donovan)

Unable to keep that story to himself Donovan shared it online - then went looking for more. The Humans of Saint John Facebook page now features hundreds of people, courtesy of Donovan.

With more than16,000 views a day, Donovan is now looking for more than just web-hits and likes. He's teaming up with the Human Development Council of Saint John.

"They've been connecting me with homeless youth and they've been telling me their stories," said Donovan. "What they're trying to do is raise awareness of youth homelessness and also try to raise funds for a youth shelter in Saint John because there is none right now."