Capturing The Faces of Mzansi

Interview: Fiona Christensen
Images: Tamlyn Wilson

Most of the time, Tamlyn Wilson is screenwriting and copywriting, but in her free time, she has started Humans of Joburg, a local take on the global phenomenon that is “Humans of…”. Here she has been capturing the faces and stories of the citizens of Johannesburg. Archetype had a quick chat with her on the ins-and-outs of taking on such a fantastic job and the highlights that come with delving into the lives of people in the City of Gold 1908444_1455428208037315_4520708658585334208_n

Archetype: There is a lot of hype around various “Humans of…” , what made you decide to start one about Johannesburg?
Tamlyn Wilson: To be honest I had never heard of Humans Of anything… It was suggested by a friend of mine after seeing a few posts of people I had interviewed around Zoo Lake one morning.

A: Have you come across any issues in using such a well-known name?
TW: Yes. I received an email from someone saying that Humans of Joburg was a “shameless rip-off of Humans of New York” and asked why we couldn’t have come up with something more original. I asked the online community whether or not everyone felt the same but the general consensus was that Humans of Joburg is easy to spot, define and understand in one go.


A: We see your page has already received many likes (2295 to date) and growing every day. Did you expect to get such a good following so quickly?
TW: Nope! It was a crazy surprise. It’s awesome to see how supportive Joburgers are of each other.

A: Is it just you taking the photos and documenting the stories or do you have an assistant?
TW: Nope – I’m a one-womaned band – but I’m hoping to collaborate soon.


A: What has been the highlights of doing Humans of Joburg (HoJ)?
TW: Understanding the art of conversation.

A: Have you got any favourite “humans” and their respective stories?
TW: I loved my first post of the lady at the water. Sharing her thoughts on spirituality, the world and what she was going to do that day made me realise the vast depth and complexity to people we pass in the street.


A: What camera do you use to capture your subjects?
TW: China Central TV laughed at me when I showed them my camera because I use my phone. It’s inconspicuous, effective and quick to deliver.

A: Do you go out looking for a subject or do you let them come across you by chance?
TW: It’s a little bit of both. The first post I ever did, the subject asked me to take a photo of her.  Other times I’m drawn in by people who look like they’re waiting for something.


A: How does the question process work – do you ask a few questions and then pick an answer or give each subject a random question?
TW: I have some basic go-to questions like “howzit going?” and “what brings you here”. From there on in you really have to listen hard – like with all your senses – and the questions and their answers grow from there. I choose the answer that most makes me smile and say “oh”.

To read more wonderful stories and see the Humans of Joburg, visit: