It’s not about haircuts. Or homelessness. Or photographs. It’s not even about giving back. For British hairdresser Joshua (Josh) Coombes and photographer Valérie Jardin, it’s simply about human connection.
Coombes says his #DoSomethingForNothing movement is ultimately about making time in a world full of distractions to notice the people around us and lift them up…to be a beacon of hope in the present moment.
“Even if you can’t give back realistically, you can still give ten minutes of your day to talk to someone,” Coombes says. “Your ‘do something for nothing’ might be different than mine. It might not be working with the homeless. It’s about using your skills or time to make others smile in your community. We have to use something as powerful as social media for good where we can. We can change things. It starts small, then builds.”
In September 2017, Coombes teamed up with renowned street photographer Valérie Jardin. Together, they hit the streets of New York City. Coombes first contacted Jardin in 2015 about partnering in Paris. That didn’t work out, but they finally connected in the Big Apple where their friendship blossomed, and plans took shape for production of an eBook highlighting their experience, along with inspiring stories from the streets. Proceeds from the publication titled #DoSomethingForNothing New York City will help Coombes continue his outreach around the world. Their partnership is heartwarming, inspiring and a visual testament to the power of human engagement.
Jardin, an official Fujifilm X-Photographer, documented the interactions between the hairdresser and his impromptu clients with her Fuji X100F while Coombes worked his magic – smiles and conversation spilling out onto the streets like sunshine. Jardin also utilized a Fujifilm Instax mini printer connected via WIFI with a smart phone to give people instant photos of themselves sporting their new hair styles. The New York City project was made possible by Fujifilm North America Corporation, which brought the pair together.
Working with Coombes, Jardin says, was emotional, exhilarating and transformational.
“This has changed my life. Everything else I’ve ever done with my camera, just doesn’t measure up to this experience. It’s the ultimate storytelling project. We’re a team and it just feels so good. We’re in such dark times and it gives me hope.”
Coombes first got the idea for #DoSomethingForNothing when he was chatting with a young homeless man on the street in London.
“It just came about one day,” he says.
He’d chatted with the man before, but this time, as they talked, Coombes noticed his ragged, matted hair and thought a haircut might lift his spirits. Coombes had his supplies with him, so he asked the man if he’d like a trim and got to work right there on the spot.
That moment sparked the idea that led to an incredible international journey. Since then, Coombes, along with his scissors and his message, have traveled and trimmed around the globe, connecting with people on the streets, from London and Paris to Mexico City and New York.
It was a beautiful sunny day in New York City’s East Village when Coombes sat down on a bench next to Tony Sánchez, a man he’d never met.
Coombes said he had no idea Sánchez was sleeping on the street until after they began talking and he learned that Sánchez is fighting cancer.
“I just got back from my last hospital appointment,” he recalls Sánchez saying. “It’s not getting any better, but it’s not getting any worse. I just wanted to talk to someone. You know, I’m happy on days like this. It’s beautiful out here. It would take a really bad mood to not feel happy today. It helps that I’ve just found out some good news on a room coming up. I wanted to share that with somebody.”
A few minutes later, Jardin arrived in the East Village. As Coombes explains in the eBook, it was their first encounter after almost two years of exchanging emails. They caught up for a few minutes, then wasted no time getting to work.
“We had a little time to chat briefly before we were both engaging with Tony. This time I spoke to him about #DoSomethingForNothing. Minutes later, I was cutting his hair.”
What’s next? Jardin and Coombes are busy promoting the eBook and plan to continue working together wherever possible. A photography exhibition may also be in the works.
Coombes often utilizes partners wherever can, such as British veterinarian Jade Statt, a director of Street Vet Ltd., to offer free health checks of dogs living on the streets with their owners.
“The most important thing since starting this journey has been witnessing others get involved in #DoSomethingForNothing,” he says. “This is for everyone.”
Download the eBook here: #DoSomethingForNothing New York City
Follow the project on social media, including Instagram, through the #DoSomethingForNothing hashtag and via the following links: