Exeter grad brings Humans of New York to the London underground

It’s called ‘Commute Blog’ and it’s really cute

Amy Dicketts graduated from Exeter two years ago today. Now she works at Mumsnet doing Affiliate Marketing, but her real passion is bringing the slightly twee, slightly invasive, always fascinating HONY style photography to sullen, sweaty commuters on the tube.

The 23-year-old runs Commute Blog, a site dedicated to pictures and stories of everyone you’re afraid of becoming after you graduate and sell your soul to the city. She began the blog when she started working in her grad job at Mumsnet, inspired by the success of Humans of New York.

She said: “I had the idea to do something like that, but we had nothing similar in England. I decided to give it a go and see what happens. Everyone likes it which is really nice.”

‘Her dad is a springer spaniel called Randy – which is quite a good name for a father – and she’s just spent the last five minutes barking at a photo of a cat on an advert on the underground’

“Nice” is the vibe which defines Commute Blog. The stories are lighthearted and touching, like HONY, or the copycat blogs set up across the country which poke into the lives of strangers and find out they met their girlfriend on holiday, or they quite like George Ezra. It might come across as a bit saccharine, but Humans of New York has over 14 million likes on Facebook. The pedestrian Leeds version has over 20,000 and Commute Blog already has 2,000 followers.

Amy said: “Sometimes people just like every single pic and comment well done. It’s so sweet to have those kinds of people to keep me going.”

‘I like Beyonce’

You have to be a certain kind of person to be able to care about the lives of strangers in a hurtling rank tunnel on a daily basis, but Amy says approaching them is easy. “I’ve always spoken to people so approaching them just comes naturally to me, but if I don’t do it for a few days and I get out of practice it is daunting to get back into.

“But it makes you realise they’re just normal people like you and me, and they’re happy to have a chat. Some people are closed off but most think it’s a funny idea. A lot of people do get tongue tied when you start speaking to them though.”

‘We met doing our Law Masters in London, but I’m from Brussels and she’s from South Africa.’

Her unusual hobby means Amy has to carry her camera with her every day, and try to vary the lines she gets on to avoid seeing the same people. She said: “I do it mostly when I’m going out after work or to see my boyfriend – people are usually a lot friendlier after 9pm once they’ve had a few drinks.”

“The Victoria and Central lines are the friendliest probably, once you get past the heat. But in City Thameslink and on trains people tend to be a lot quieter and less friendly.”

‘I’m an Architect, but I’m also a furniture designer’

Because the strangers she speaks to are so inexplicably nice, Amy struggles to think of a bad experience, apart from spotting one man taking a photo of her while she was photographing someone else – she saw the flash go off – and someone changing seats while she interviewed the stranger beside them. Mostly, like in New York, Cambridge, Leeds and anywhere else the photography projects have popped up, we’re happy with telling a stranger on a train, or on the street, things we wouldn’t tell our mates.

“My favourite story comes from a picture of a girl with a hearing aid. She’s a friend from work but when we were on the train I asked to interview her, and I actually found out more about her doing that than we’d ever done talking before.”

You can also see Amy’s project on Facebook here.