Photographer Zach Murphy is always introducing himself to people when he travels, which works to his advantage in two different ways.

The first is obvious. See, Zach usually introduces himself in order to ask someone if he can take their portrait. It helps him to meet people, to have some kind of interaction with those he photographs.

His project, Faces of Places, tackles the topic of basic humanity through portraits of people around the world. It’s a little like Humans of New York, but relies more on the visual of the person and the environment surrounding them than something they say.

The idea came to him during a year-long volunteer trip to 11 countries around the world. Zach developed a deep fascination with how similar yet how different human beings can be. He noticed that, while we all share a basic humanity — a desire to survive and take care of our families — our cultural differences and the physical landscape we are born in creates vast diversity.

He saw the same theme time and time again, across countries and continents, so he started documenting the people he saw.

Zach has thousands of photographs, enough to fill two (soon to be three) photo books. His idea was to create something tangible that you could flip through to see hundreds of faces looking back at you. As you turn the pages, there would be subtle differences in skin color, clothing, and physical appearances, but the smiles would be the same.

His travels have taken him to over 65 countries, and every trip thus far — to Australia, Northern Africa, or South America — has had some kind of theme or dominating lesson.

That’s the second way introducing himself has been beneficial. In telling people who he is and what he’s doing, Zach has solidified those things in his own mind.

“Every time you introduce yourself, you’re telling people your dreams, ambitions, and passions. When you’re constantly reminding yourself of those things, it pushes you further to become that.”

So when Zach introduces himself to someone, he’s reminded of who he wants to be: a travel photographer. He takes the portrait and adds it to his Faces of Places collection, which then motivates him to travel more.

It’s a seemingly neverending circle of introductions and portraits — both of which exist because of the other. And Zach doesn’t plan on breaking the cycle anytime soon.

Zach’s first two books are available for purchase on his website. His latest, “Circling the Sahara,” will be published soon. You can see more of his photos on his website or Instagram.

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