Jesse Gardner

I believe that authenticity is the core of creativity. Honesty is freeing. I try hard to live this every day. But every day, I feel the pressure to put on a show. Pretend you’re not hurting. Pretend you’ve got it all figured out. Pretend you know more than you know in order to get the job. It’s unhealthy, and it brought me to the question: how can I be more honest? Then I realized that one part of my unintentional dishonesty was regarding people as I perceived them to be instead of who they really are.

That’s why I started Troy Stories. To discover people. I walk around Troy, NY, photographing people and asking them to share their stories. I feel like there’s truth—some measure of authenticity—in that. It’s good to meet people and listen to their stories and hear them put into words what they think is important in life.

Troy is such an interesting place right now, full of all different kinds of people. There’s a lot of change happening: a lot of good and a lot of bad, depending on who you talk to. And I think that listening to and sharing stories at this critical moment in the history of this 200-year-old city can help build empathy.

For some, that means taking time to consider how differently people see the world, how different the circumstances they face. For others, these stories mean finding comfort in discovering that you’re not the only person who thinks like you do. There’s such strength in learning someone out there shares your fears or joys.

Consider Troy Stories an empathy-building endeavor.

You can also follow along on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I try to share a new story every day.