By Sunny Liu
Having travelled around the world for 12 years, Chris Cincotta felt a missing community bond when he moved back to Melbourne three years ago.
Determined to bring more human element to this bustling city, Mr Cincotta started the Humans in Melbourne Facebook page and the Melbourne I Love You Instagram account.
Inspired by Humans of New York, he posted photos of the city he was born in and missed for the past decade, from buskers to people sleeping rough on the streets.
He wanted to give the page a more photo-centred focus and snapped the best angles of landmarks, natural sceneries and hidden laneways to bring the unique Melbourne to the world.
For more than a year, the Facebook page and Instagram account attracted a few hundred likes and followers but did not really take off.
It was earlier this year when Mr Cincotta did a feature on a street barber that the pages really grabbed Melbourne’s attention. Its popularity soared from 13,000 followers to 30,000 and now it has more than 100,000 likes on Facebook and 58,000 on Instagram. And each week the numbers rise by 1000.
“I love every single one of the people that follow the page. Without them, the page would just be some guy’s page. But they make the page what it is,” he said.
“I want the page to be something that will make Melbourne a better place. As the page gets bigger and bigger, it has the influence to be able to do that.”
He has a special attachment to Melbourne’s laneways, especially Centre Place opposite Flinders Street Station.
“It’s so European and so Melbourne. It’s the best place in Melbourne for photographs, without a doubt. All my favourite photos are pretty much all taken here.”
Laneways like Centre Place are not only photogenic, but also full of stories.
Mr Cincotta stumbled upon a small soup shop on Centre Place in May and found out it gave free soup to homeless people with each soup pre-paid by someone else.
He featured the shop on the page and it was immediately picked up by mainstream media, getting more people to come to the shop.
He enjoys helping spread the good deeds of companies with “social responsibility”.
He is constantly looking for stories behind people and places in Melbourne, be it a businessman with style, or a corner shop that no one would notice.
“I’m very much a ‘street’ kind of person. When I see people, I just want to tell their stories. I can tell a story from observing, but I want to get inside the stories,” he said.
Having zero experience in journalism, Mr Cincotta does not write in a newsy style. He thinks subjectivity brings more personality into the stories. He doesn’t think of himself as a journalist, but a storyteller.
“Anybody can take good photos, anybody can tell their stories. But I just tell them in a way like I’m sitting down and having a chat about them. I think it comes across pretty well on the page,” Mr Cincotta said.
Though many of his features had been on homeless people, he said he would never give them money.
Instead, he gives people sandwiches, clothes and things they really need. He once even walked someone to a hostel and paid for his accommodation.
Mr Cincotta frequently posts other photographers’ work on the page. He does not see them as competition, but as friends who help each other out.
“I’m very lucky. I’m a photographer who gets to be a photographer. If I can help somebody, I should. Being featured on the page may help them become better photographers and maybe make some extra money and get a better camera,” he said.
Mr Cincotta sells his prints from the little cylinder on the corner of Bourke and Swanston streets.