(WMC) - "Are you from here?"
"What high school did you go to?"
"Why are you still here?"
"I've lived in different cities, but there's nowhere like Memphis. We're unique. I love it here."
That's the conversation between a woman waiting outside of a restaurant and Kirstin Cheers, who is the photographer behind the Humans of Memphis project. By posting short dialog accompanied by pictures, she hopes to ignite some fire for change in the community.
"I just want people to look at my photos and feel the emotion without knowing the subjects' name, but just their story. (Hence why I don't give names much)," Cheers said in an email. "It's my own form of activism and advocacy right now until I hit the lottery and can start my own company."
When riding around on a Craigslist-purchased bicycle, mostly in her neighborhood in South Memphis, she finds people. It's sometimes those who look like they have something say.
"But I realized we truly cannot judge a book by its cover. That's what I discovered. That's what Memphis needs to know," said Cheers, who has been working on the project since she graduated from University of Memphis in May.
Now, Cheers will snap away with her Canon Rebel XS from protesters affected by budget cuts to school girls leaving Booker T. Washington High School after the bell rings.
"They [the girls] lived near Foote Homes, and they started expressing why they wanted to leave Memphis ... The new developments are great, but why would a 16-year-old go to Overton Square? Bar Louie? Boscos?" Cheers said. "The new developments are catering to a different demographic, and it seems our children are being left out."
Memphis' youth inspired Cheers to start her arts and humanities project, so that she could showcase stories of those in the city who are overlooked or underrepresented—from all races, classes, and ages.
Humans of Memphis has more than 2,000 likes on Facebook. As a recent graduate, Cheer calls it her job until the next step, and may that be out of the city, she says, she is making the most out of her time in the Bluff City. Follow the link to see some of her pictures. http://bit.ly/1rCwwIe.
"Everyone has a story," she said. "I'm just crazy enough to believe that we all could connect and make Memphis better by sharing our stories and who we are when no one is looking."
Cheers wrote WMC Action News 5 for our Short Social Stories series topic in July, which talked about summer moments in Memphis. Read more about our series here.