It's a simple question a Brooklyn resident has been asking strangers for years — what's your story? Thousands of people have answered, often in deeply personal ways. Now those responses are on exhibit. NY1's Roger Clark tells us about "The Strangers Project."
A poignant handwritten letter is one of dozens on the wall at Hell's Kitchen's Fountain House Gallery.
"I haven't written for myself in over two years. I'm afraid of what I'll come up with, or what I will discover about how I have changed," the letter read.
The letters were collected by Brandon Doman over seven years as part of The Strangers Project.
"I've always been curious," Doman said. "You know, you see other people and you can understand that everyone has all these varied vibes and stories going on, but I wanted to find a a way to explore them, and I found the easiest way to do that was to just ask."
That's what he has done. He asks people to write down anything they want, as long as it's true.
The letters have been displayed over the years in outdoor public spaces. Through Wednesday, you can see dozens of them at the gallery.
Doman started collecting them in Michigan after college, moving to New York five years ago - 20,000, in all.
"I do it anywhere that people are walking by, so whether that's a park or outside of a coffee shop," he said.
The letters include advice on life, birthday messages and people diving into their inner selves to express a deeply held emotion, like one that says, "Happy Birthday Daddy, I love you. Forgive yourself. I do."
"Every time I collect them, there's something new and interesting and amazing," Doman said.
After collecting all of these stories, The Strangers Project is doing something now that they have never done before. They're hitting the road.
Project director and filmmaker Jess Vogel will work with filmmaker Taylor Nagel to document the journey and capture the project in a new form.
"September 8 is when we have our launch in Boston, and from there, we will just go directly across the country from city to city," Vogel said.
"I think we might be able to explore people's stories in a bit more depth and see what didn't fit on the page, maybe, and kind of talk to them and engage with them beyond just these stories," Nagel said.
The Strangers Project will be on display until Wednesday at the Fountain House Gallery, with a fundraiser Tuesday evening. For more information, head to strangersproject.com.