'Humans of Philemon Wright' teaching students more than photography

A Gatineau high school has embarked on an ambitious new project modelled after the popular Humans of New York blog. Humans of Philemon Wright has grown to a collection of 400 photographs and captured the imagination of the entire school.

Modelled after popular Humans of New York blog, Gatineau high school project yields eye-opening results

Students at a Gatineau HIgh School have created Humans of Philemon Wright, based on the popular blog Humans of New York. The project has grown to 400 photographs and captured the imagination of the entire school. 0:54

The popular blog-turned-books Humans of New York feature portraits of ordinary city-dwellers alongside the often extraordinary details of their lives.

Now a Gatineau high school has its own, eye-opening take on the HONY model: Humans of Philemon Wright has grown to a collection of 400 photographs and captured the imagination of the entire school.

Students were tasked with photographing their classmates, school staff and members of the surrounding community. They were also asked to interview the subjects and write a paragraph to accompany the picture. 

Project surpassed goals

Student Charbel Naaman says he learned the importance of pictures in storytelling, and how one must reflect the other.

"You can't just go from a picture of a person having the time of their life, to a quote stating that they were miserable," Naaman said. 
Philemon Wright High School student Charbel Naaman.

English teacher Jodie MacInnis says the initial goal was to teach students photography, writing and interviewing skills. But she says they learned so much more

I think they learned that everyone has a story.- Jodie MacInnis , English teacher

"I think they learned that everyone has a story," MacInnis said. "Even people who you feel you know everything you need to know about them, and then when you get talking everyone has struggles, everyone feels embarrassed, everyone is proud of something but doesn't want to admit it."

Students and teachers check out the photos and stories.

Student Averil Bott says it gave her a reason to talk to people who she used to just pass by in the halls, and learn their stories.

"It gave me have a deeper understanding and appreciation for our community here at Philemon Wright," Bott said.

The Humans of Philemon Wright pictures and stories have been posted on the walls of the school's cafeteria, where they'll remain on display for the next couple of months.  

Teachers also hope to turn the project into a blog, and make it a permanent part of the curriculum for Grade 10 English students.