Santa Barbara residents can now go beyond the surface with As Humans, a storytelling project that reveals the intimacies of your next-door neighbor. Inspired by her Chinese-American identity and a recurring struggle to assimilate, creator Jadyn Chen brings to life a mission of embracing what makes people stand out. Though working as an art director full-time at Procore in Carpinteria, Chen is finding the time to curate this unique platform for individual expression every week.
“It’s really easy to disguise yourself and try to fit in,” explained Chen, who now aims to “create a space for people to be able to celebrate differences without being judged or biased.”
New stories showcasing Santa Barbara residents are available on AsHumans.com each Tuesday. “As Humans is multiple facets all in one,” said Chen. “It started as an illustration project and evolved into stories.” The project, which started in June and now features 14 stories, serves as an honest call to openness and acceptance in a very divisive time.
Chen’s passion for fostering this understanding atmosphere drives the project. “I’m super-efficient now,” she explained of her process, which includes both an interview and a digital portrait of each participant. “I used to draw only in black and white — each portrait would take me 10 hours,” said Chen. But in color, “it takes me about four.”
She’s adamant that As Humans is not about her. “It’s about the people I interview,” she said. “People have been really honest, and it’s been really exciting.”
Especially during the pandemic, Chen believes the platform illuminates a common experience of loneliness. “I feel as though a lot of people go through similar things,” said Chen, whose interviews often circle common themes of family, friends, and people, as well as feelings of depression and anxiety. Despite the pandemic, said Chen, “Many people have been talking about what makes them happy, and it’s been very uplifting.”
While conversations are open-ended, several have surrounded race. Among George Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter protests, and civil unrest, Chen finds individuals are compelled to share their perspective of race in America.
“This one person I was interviewing was extremely hard on themselves,” she said of Allen A. “He talks about having racist tendencies. It was super moving, especially since it was my second interview. The stuff he was sharing was very vulnerable, and I thought it was really cool how he was able to share that openly.”
As Humans poses the same set of questions to each interviewee. “Hopefully anyone can talk about any part of their life with those questions,” said Chen, whose interviews move past small talk to forge genuine connections with everyday human beings.
For anyone wanting to share their story, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the stories at AsHumans.com and browse the Instagram account @ashumanscollective.
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