Every person is a living anthology, having volumes of tales that are meant to endear, inspire, or at least raise eyebrows. Through the assortment of hats that one dons each day comes at least a litany that is every bit as fascinating as a work of fiction. Filipino photographer Jimmy Hilario knows this for a fact. In his ongoing photo series, Hello Stranger, he captures stirring images of people encountered in his daily excursions, all of whom are deemed non-familiars.
Known as “Stitch” in the local photographic community, Jimmy does not regard one’s occupation, gender, or social status when picking a subject from an ocean of people; as long as he feels a natural connection to someone, that person becomes a potential inclusion in the series. Before taking photos, he opts to engage the strangers in conversation instead of stealthily taking snaps, making them sufficiently secure to let their hair down and be themselves while sharing a few tales.
The sincerity brandished in each photo strongly resonates with the viewer, so much so that one feels that the subjects aren’t strangers at all, but people that they can talk to or at least empathize with. While observing the images, one would experience the urge to smile with the happier folks, be in awe of the pictured grit and determination, and sympathize with the plights of those who appear to be struggling. It is a testament to how the human spirit can transcend photos and accord animation to idle limbs.
Jimmy was admittedly moved by the dignity and ‘heroism’ many of his subjects carry in their day-to-day lives. In putting together Hello Stranger, he has encountered a typhoon survivor, an undeterred cook who eventually became a chef, and a cheerful street seller, among others. Their collective accounts have pushed the seasoned lensman to continue on with the project despite already completing three sets of 100 strangers, adding more in the near future to an already impressive feat.
Jimmy Hilario’s indomitable drive to touch other’s lives and be inspired in return could potentially turn this series into a lifelong project, and he is perfectly fine with that. After all, in a Philippine society muddled with divisive politics and a growing apathy for others, Hello Stranger offers a safe space for people to care not just for their fellow Filipinos, but for the entire nation as well regardless of political color, gender, or purchasing power.
A little concern can go a long way, dear stranger.