About

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 three new stories a week.


“We get so caught up in our own lives… in the pressures and demands and the day-to-day busyness that we lose sensitivity to the fact that everybody else is in the same boat, doing the same thing, facing their own struggles. When we do that as a community, the empathy levels decline and we get irritated with people rather quickly because we’re busy. We don’t put ourselves in their shoes so to speak. I think the problem we have in our society today—at least in this country—is a serious lack of empathy and understanding. These stories that you’re doing [for Troy Stories]—I think they’re great because they makes you stop and say, ‘Oh yeah, that person’s a human being too, and they’re going through the same stuff I’m going through.’”
—Patrick Madden, Mayor of Troy