The Strangers Project at WTC
The Strangers Project opened a new space in the Oculus to exhibit its interactive installation in the South Concourse, Balcony Level. It displays anonymous true stories written by strangers. The initiative was launched in 2009 by Brandon Doman, and asks a simple, yet broad question – “What’s it like being you?” Strangers are encouraged to anonymously share their stories, thoughts, and reflections on blank sheets of paper. The installation has popped up around NYC, and in other cities around the country. Its non-invasive, open-ended approach has led to over 65,000 responses from people of all ages and walks of life.
The collected stories are compiled into an archive, sometimes shared on The Strangers Project social media, and hung in Strangers’ space, whether it be a wall, window, or clothesline in a park. Passersby can choose to write a story or stop by and read the collection.
For participants of The Strangers Project, the experience is often transformative. It provides them an opportunity to express thoughts they may have never shared with anyone, or even reaffirm their beliefs as the act of writing can be a healing process. For visitors who are stopping by just to read, they may find themselves immersed in the depth of human connections and experiences. From emotional accounts of loss and resilience to tales of serendipitous encounters and joyous triumphs, each story leaves a lasting impression and often creates a sense of shared experience among participants and readers.
We spoke to Brandon to learn more about his initiative:
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Brandon Doman, and I'm a Brooklyn based artist and the founder of the Strangers Project. I've always been passionate about storytelling and the intricate tapestry of human emotions and experiences. The Strangers Project is a way for me to explore this interest in a meaningful way and share it with the world.
2. What inspired you to start this project?
The inspiration for the Strangers Project came from a simple curiosity about people's lives and the stories they carry with them. I found that there's an untapped reservoir of human experiences out there—moments of triumph, sorrow, love, and a million other emotions that often go unshared. I wanted to create a safe and anonymous space for people to share these experiences and for others to connect with them. I started the project in 2009 as what I thought would be a small experiment—and here we are over 85,000 stories later.
3. What do you hope readers and participants walk away from the installation feeling?
My hope is for participants to leave feeling connected, understood, and a bit more compassionate toward others—and themselves. I want them to realize that every stranger they pass by has a story just as complex and meaningful as their own. For readers, it's about capturing a snippet of human experience that may be entirely different from their own but can elicit empathy, curiosity, and a greater understanding of the world.
4. Is there any single story that stands out to you in all the ones you have read?
There are so many touching and impactful stories that it's hard to choose just one. What I really love is that everyone has their own answer for this question—each story resonates for each person for a different reason, and I love seeing all the different times people say they found exactly what they needed to read.
5. Have you ever shared a story with Strangers Project?
Yes, I have. In the spirit of the project, I too have anonymously shared a couple stories about my own experiences—mixed in among the others.
6. How did you decide to open a space at the World Trade Center?
I’m always looking for spaces where passersby can find a special experience they weren’t expecting. The installation at WTC Oculus has been an amazing place to share with both New Yorkers and travelers from all over the world. Visitors have the option to leave little comment cards as they leave the space, and over and over people say that entering the space felt like an “oasis,” a “temple,” a “sacred space,” etc.—I’m grateful to be able to hold a calming and reflective space in the middle of an energetic city like New York.
We hope you’ll stop by The Strangers Project and experience the power of human connection through the art of storytelling during your visit, and perhaps, share a story.