Human Postcards is a web series project involving one minute video portraits that take audiences into the lives and minds of a universal community; the often unnoticed ‘invisible’ people.
Nora Jaccaud, Director & Producer and Arie Van Der Poel, Sound Engineer & Producer are exploring the world collecting stories that inspire them and making them into one-minute documentaries.
Human Postcards is a personal project born from passion. Nora and Arie believe every person we meet, observe on the street, in a shop, behind a counter, and even the ones we don’t see, like the picker behind the fruit or the dairy farmer behind our milk, have thoughts worth hearing, worlds worth seeing; that we have a lot to learn from them.
Born and raised in an artists and writers residency in France, Nora developed an ability early on to listen, watch and assist artists. “The camera allowed me to explore unnoticed worlds with a special attention for the beauty of the invisible,” she says.
Nora says the original inspiration for Human Postcards came from a sandwich man standing at the corner of Regent Street and Oxford Street in London. “His ‘absence’ to the crowd made him ‘present’ to me,” she says. She wanted to know who he was, what was he thinking, and what he daydreamed about.
“The concept for this project was to talk, film and listen to people who are often unnoticed by our busy urban lifestyle,” says Nora. “As we started filming we realised that the project was growing to be more than something about ‘invisible’ people, and that everyone had stories, lessons, and dreams to pass on. So I guess the project evolved into a universal belief in humanity, beyond expectations.”
The pilot episode for Human Postcards was made in France, as the couple were working in Europe at that time. “We chose to start our travels in New Zealand because of Arie’s Maori origins, and for the past four months we have encountered incredible people everywhere over the course of our journey.”
After New Zealand, the couple will travel to Australia for a short period, then Bali and Japan to continue the project.
The one minute format was derived from the idea of a postcard. “We want to capture the essence of a person at the time that we meet them, and send that experience like a postcard to our loved ones. We imagine each film as a 60-second dose of humanity that even the busiest person can enjoy!
“The format also lets us strike a good balance between travel and work. As all the post production is done from the back of our camper-van, limiting the length of the films keeps us moving in our travels,” says Nora.
The couple normally film their subjects for 45 minutes depending on the scene, followed by a 30 minute interview. “Post production takes about one working day per episode, and then we’re busy managing our website and social media channels, to get the message to our followers,” says Nora.
And on the technical side of things; “We shoot on a Panasonic GH4 with Lumix and Voigtlander lenses. We also carry an assortment of Sennheiser microphones for different situations, with Sound Devices preamps, and Rycote wind protection.”
When it comes to choosing subjects for the documentaries Nora says they travel with an open mind, “and the project has made us more attuned to every encounter than ever before. We believe that Everyone Is a Story, and the experience of the past three months has proven it. The choice is as big as the world is populated.
“However, we choose the people the same way we choose our friends in life. Somehow a special connection happens and we often jump into it without wondering why or how. Sometimes a smile is enough, like Shane, who was helping a friend move cows down the road in Russell. Sometimes it’s Emma at the grocery store, advising us on the best anti-mosquito spray after our first sleepless night in the van. Another time it’s john, competing at a wood chopping competition against men half his age. Just like the other portraits, these three examples are no exception… We never knew what we were going to discover.
“It was a surprise to discover that Shane was not a farmer, but a school bus driver who is extremely involved in the evolution of education in Northland.
“It was a very moving, intimate moment to hear Emma tell us about the loss of her partner in a motorcycle accident, and the lesson this experience had taught her.
“It was inspiring to hear John show his fear of old age, when interviewing him just after he had won another round of the competition.
“Another powerful aspect of these postcards is the attention we give to our subjects,” says Nora. “The homage we pay them is very dear to our hearts as the time we spend with them is always an exceptional moment.”
To date the couple have filmed 34 Postcards all over New Zealand, from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga. “It is an ongoing project that we hope to continue indefinitely,” says Nora.
The project is developing a loyal following. “It’s a joy to see people enjoying and interacting with the project, regardless of their age group, culture, gender or location in the world,” says Nora. “Most of all, it’s heart-warming when someone tells us that they not only love the project or a particular portrait, but that after watching, they feel inspired to talk more to the next person they encounter that day. Feedback like that fuels us to make more films!”
The funding to help start the project came from Andre Ullman, director of a HRA Pharmaceuticals in France. HRA Pharma Foundation funds many non-profit organisations, such as projects and schools focused on women’s rights in developing countries. “In 2014 we approached Andre, and he believed the project could be something special,” says Nora. “This funding helped to purchase some of the equipment we needed to make these films, but our daily costs, such as additional equipment, travel and food comes from our own pockets. We are also a registered non-profit organisation, allowing us to take donations for the project via PayPal.”
And the future? “The only plan we have is to continue to release one film per week, and to keep seeking out beautiful souls as we travel more in the world,” says the couple.