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“Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It’s all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary.” Chuck Palahniuk

I set out on the streets of New York City with a simple mission: to interact with strangers, find out their story, and take a look at their handwriting. The majority of people I approached were not only willing to hear what I had to say, but also eager to tell me about their lives. It was refreshing to discover how quickly a stone-faced stranger could transition into a smiling, talkative temporary acquaintance. Each person has a unique and interesting story that gives life and personality to their handwriting. Often, we see a stranger’s signature or short note and never get to discover the thinking, breathing being that created the lines. I put this book together as a porthole into the soul of script. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did making it.

Michelle was the first person I approached. She is the waitress at the local diner. At first, I was hesitant to ask her because she didn’t smile the entire time she had been serving us. Fortunately, I went for it anyway. The moment I asked her if she would like to participate, her face drew a broad grin and her posture relaxed. She told me it was the second day in a row someone had asked to take her picture. The day before a movie was being filmed in the diner and they had asked her to be in a scene. She filled up my mug and struck a pose.

Ivan. The man in the dog suit. I had to at least try to get this guy to help. He gladly agreed, posed, and took out his business card, which was written over another business card. I asked him what the disclosure project is and he told me it’s about UFOs. He said I had to visit his website to learn more. He also asked me if I had any femine doodles to contribute to his environmental tote bags. I told him I didn’t, and as I walked away he said: “You don’t understand yet, but you will soon.”

Phil was a curious man. I saw him walking with a small paper in his hand and thought it would be a great opportunity to get a shot of a personal note. I stopped him and explained the project. He was completely into it. He asked me what school I am from, what my major is, who my favorite artists are. I answered his questions and asked him his name. “Phil Drill,� he said. I have a feeling he made it up, but that only makes me love it even more.

Joe is a street artist. He uses colored sand to create beautiful designs. Each design is meticulously fashioned, taking anywhere from six to ten hours to complete. At the end of the day he sweeps up the sand as if he were never there. Street art is Joe’s full time job, and he spends nearly every day in a different location sharing his passion with the public. His wife is right there with him, answering questions with a smile. Joe paused his artistic process just to speak with me. That left an impression.

Terrell is a Southern Bell, from her accent to her gentle demeanor, right down to her beautiful handwriting. She was in New York City visitng, but still agreed to listen to my proposition. After I explained, she told me that she knew a bit of calligraphy. As she was writing, she told me that her father used to own a printing press and she loved playing with the different metal slabs of type. She also mentioned that she had a love for photography, but wasn’t that great at it. Instead, she became a model and had other people take pictures of her.

Elaine was so animated I couldn’t get her to stay still long enough for a portrait. She is an NYC street artist, and she had her work laid out on a table. Her style had immediately gripped me, and I knew I had to at least try to get her participation. Luckily, she was into my idea before I even finished explaining it. She immediately pulled out a small case. The Wet Seal logo on the front was painted over in green and there was an Obama sticker on the inside. Her business cards were simply small pieces of notebook paper with her signature and contact information, all hand=written.

Raj was another character that couldn’t stay still. He is the clerk at the local magazine store, and I found him taking notes when I went to buy a drink. He was extremely enthusiastic about the project, and he scrambled all over the store for paper to write on. He came back to me with several different pieces of paper and asked me what I wanted him to write. I told him the paper he was writing on was fine. Before I left, he apologized for being boring. To me, he was anything but.

Carlos is the Mister Softee man near Union Square. I purchased ice cream from him and he seemed like a nice guy, so I asked him if he would be kind enough to participate in my project. When I was done explaining, he said, “No ingles.� He only spoke Spanish, but the look in his eyes and the gestures he was making showed me that he genuinely wished he could help. Determined not to give up, I called my Spanish-speaking friend and quickly explained what I needed from him. Carlos spoke on my cellphone, disappeared into his truck, and came back with the napkin pictured.

There was a time when handwriting was considered advanced technology. A time when only the rich could afford to learn to write and written language was used as a weapon against the lower and middle class illiterate. Today, those ancient times are ironically nothing more than text in history books. We have forgotten that having the ability to write is a privilege. We ignore the fact that there are still people in this world that can’t read, let alone write. What started in caves, spread across walls, was chiseled into structures, stamped into paper, and converted into bits and bytes has culminated into what you see here.

Creative Design and Production Raz Marf Photography Heather Quercio

The Human Font  

An exploration of handwriting and the people behind the letters.