In 2011, on her 31st birthday, on a whim, Briana Cerezo headed downtown with her new DSLR camera, began photographing strangers, and asked them for life advice. “Each person had their own reaction,” she recalls. “But they softened when I asked for advice. It’s remarkable what people will tell you when you demonstrate you want to understand them.”

Last September, this excursion led Cerezo to create Humans of Portland, a local spin-off of the famous photoblog Humans of New York (3.5 million Facebook fans, a book that was a no. 1 New York Times best seller, many imitators). Both projects pair street photography with impromptu microinterviews. 

Sometimes Cerezo’s portraits conform to “Portland weird” expectations. More often, they capture a richer, quirkier diversity. A construction worker turned out to be a Soviet refugee; a quadruple amputee, a medical student; a former aspiring therapist had dropped out of school to focus on being a sex worker. 

“I want to encourage and inspire people to see one another,” she says. As her discerning eye reveals, there’s a lot to see.

See more Humans of Portland—and read their stories—in the slide show below.