Debra Barraud – the founder of “Humans of Amsterdam”
We got the great possibility to interview Debra Barraud. A very popular photographer/writer in Amsterdam and the founder of Humans of Amsterdam. Read along to get to know her story and how she is dealing with the current quarantine in Amsterdam.
Debra is a Dutch photographer/writer and runs a Facebook and Instagram page called “Humans of Amsterdam”. Originally, she grew up in a smaller town called Arnhem and studied social work in Nijmegen.
While doing her internship as a dialogue facilitator in Tel Aviv, Debra learned a lot about how people can connect more through human experiences.
“The idea was to gather people through dialogue and to have these sessions where people from all different walks of life would come together and they would sit down and discuss their personal stories. It was never really about politics but much more about who are you and what have you been through.”
Almost at the end of her time in Tel Aviv, she discovered the page “Humans of Tel Aviv” and loved the concept of sharing portraits of people and adding their personal story to it. Without any experience in photography or writing, she started Humans of Amsterdam as soon as she got back to the Netherlands.
“I moved to Amsterdam because I felt like I needed a break from where I came from. I was 21 at that time and I missed being surrounded by different cultures.”
“After the internship in Tel Aviv, I came back to Amsterdam with the mission to launch the platform and I felt that my concept would work here.“
Working on “Humans of Amsterdam”
During the first 2 years, Debra was struggling a lot. She worked several jobs while she was also spending her freetime on building the platform and going out on the streets to capture stories. After those years, she got assignments and managed to make her project profitable and importantly, without losing the integrity of the project itself.
“That was my biggest fear! I did not want to become profitable but lose the integrity of the project with that. I really wanted to keep the project on its own.”
Even though moneywise it was not an easy start, the followers came quite quickly and she was able to gain 10.000 followers in the first year. Today, Debra has over 470.000 followers on her Humans of Amsterdam Facebook page and almost 70.000 followers on Instagram.
Dealing with the Quarantine
Usually, you could meet Debra 2 times per week on the streets looking out for people to approach and talk to. Sadly, during times of the pandemic, this is not possible anymore.
“Since the Corona crisis, I wasn’t going on the streets anymore because of social distancing. (…)It was too controversial to do it now. Instead, I interviewed people through the phone.”
“Kingsday was an exception because it is such a special day. So, I went on the streets to take photos. And this photo series is also a bit different. It was beautiful to see the quiet streets, just like the old days – back to basics. I liked the fact that there were still small festivities and people celebrating, but in a modest way.”
“If you are a photographer, there is always something to photograph. Even if there is a lockdown – you can still do something.”
“Everybody has a story, the only thing is not everybody wants to share that story, which is fine.”
And for those who want to share their stories, she is providing her amazing platform to connect people with one another.
Not only on her own platform she gained awareness and followers. Thanks to Debras hard work she is able to make a living and works on several other projects. Just to name a few: She had a project with the UN, where she travelled around Europe and interviewed children about their dreams. Also, she raised money for refugees in Amsterdam and spoke back in January at a panel in Davos. Right now, Debra is also working on an assignment for the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs about press freedom and interviews journalists all over the world.
Thoughts about the Future
“I am excited to go back to the streets. I am excited to do interviews on the street again. The weather is getting better. I am just excited to capture meaningful stories. (…) It was also good to have some time to think about where do I want to go and what makes me happiest – being able to create stories.”
Thanks to Debra we are also able to share her special photo series of Kingsday with you.
Kingsday during Covid-19