I meet a lot of people in this job. But not a lot of people are as nice and warm as Sara Haile. Immediately disarming and generous she settled into her shoot like a pro. Sometimes it’s tough to photograph photographers but she gave herself over to ours and trusted his instincts. Her blog, People Who Do, delve into the lives of very normal people. She gives regular people, working hard in their careers, a reason to pause, and reflect on why they do what they do. Most people don’t get this opportunity to talk about themselves or their passion- whatever it may be. To date, Haile has interviewed dancers, public relations executives, musicians, and a lawyer at the ACLU. Everyone is interesting to Sara Haile, and everyone has a story worth sharing.
Where are you from? What was your childhood like?
I’m from a pretty small town in Central PA so from the moment I knew about what NYC was like, I’ve always wanted to be here! Ever since I can remember (and probably before then, just ask my parents) I loved art, acting, singing, dancing, and pretending that I owned a few different businesses that I ran out of the guest room of my childhood home. My parents always supported anything and everything I wanted to do. Towards the end of high school, they bought me my first camera and ever since then photography has been my main creative outlet.
What eventually brought you to New York?
Everything about New York brought me here! Probably since I was 10 I knew this was the place where I wanted to be. There’s so much to do, so many different people, and so much to learn. It’s the greatest city on earth and I live here. Like, what?
How did People Who Do come about?
People Who Do originated from a few different things. I was looking to update my photography portfolio at the time but I knew that with this next time around I wanted to focus my work on topics and things that I truly loved to shoot. I figured I would create a new portfolio by starting a project that really fulfilled what I loved doing most; photographing and talking to people about what they did.
Also, my brother passed away suddenly in 2013 at the age of 28. There was a much larger emphasis on making the most out of life after I lost someone so close. People Who Do is a way to pair my photography with celebrating those who take advantage of their life. I’ve learned that it can be taken away so quickly and as far as I know, you only get one, so do something with it, give it your all, and let whatever that you do make you happy. This doesn’t necessarily mean your goal needs to lead you to stardom or make you rich – it’s more of a focus on what will you decide to do that fulfills you, exploring why you do that, and what you’ve learned from it.
What do you love about this project?
Honestly, I love how happy it makes me and how much it’s taught me. At this time, I don’t profit from it, but I truly never think about that. I value how it makes me feel rather than any paycheck that I would receive. When I’m photographing or working on a feature, I put as much effort and love into it as I would at a job where I was getting paid a fancy salary. That’s how I know it’s what I should be doing.
I also love creating a level playing field for the exchange of human advice. My goal is to interview people from all fields, with all levels of experience because I think everyone, at any level or expertise, can contribute valuable insight.
Who are 5 people you would love to feature?
So many! I have a running list but below are some that come to mind.
What surprises you most about the people who you feature?
I think everyone’s story is surprising in a way because they’re all so unique. I think a lot of times you can create a perception of someone from social media but once you dive deeper and ask certain questions it’s amazing what you can learn about someone’s journey that you may not have known from an Instagram feed. For example, Robin Arzon, is a former lawyer turned street athlete. From her online presence you may not know that she’s survived being held hostage which was one of the reasons why she started running as a way to cope with that experience. She’s now an incredible leader in fitness! Stuff like that surprises me – not that I ever doubt human resilience, but hearing about it throug these interviews just blows my mind!
I’ve noticed more and more interview-based sites gravitating toward interviewing “real” people – why do you think this is?
I think for 2 reasons. 1.) Real stories resonate with people and 2.) We now live in a world where people’s stories are more accessible. I like to think that there are a lot of people that are genuinely interested in hearing someone else’s story especially if they’re able to relate to it, despite their notoriety. I also think the internet and social media has made it very easy for us to peer into the lives, insights, and careers of really whomever we want which has maybe influenced people’s interest in learning more about the people around them.
What’s an average day like for you? How do you balance your day job and People Who Do?
On an average day, I usually wake up around 6:30/7:00 AM and start doing some work from either my couch or kitchen table. I’ve found that I’m most concentrated early in the morning so I like to capitalize on this time. Between 9-10 AM I’ll head into work at Peloton (I manage their social media as well as their blog). Work is usually busy – there really isn’t such thing as an average day, which I kind of like, so I’ve learned to be able to change gears and be ready to handle a lot of things at once! I kind of find a thrill in multitasking so this works! After work, I will either fit in a workout, photography, or head home to work on People Who Do or do some photo editing.
I balance both by working on the weekends and after work. There’s no secret to doing it all, you just have to put in the work. Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely have to make time for yourself but you definitely have to hustle. That being said, the balance isn’t always perfect. If I’m having a busier week at work, instead of being bummed about not making as much progress as I’d like on a PWD project, I just do what I can. Even though it might not be exactly what I wanted to get done, I know that I at least made progress somewhere and that’s better than nothing.