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Q&A: Clémence Polès on Eight Years of 'Passerby'

In 2015, Clémence Polès had a brilliant idea: an online publication dedicated to "turning our gaze to the women who pass us by." Through intimate portraits, curated recommendations and more, the digital space has been going strong for eight years. This month, Clémence assembled a table of phenomenal women to share stories and celebrate at The Standard Grill at The Standard, High Line. We caught up with her to talk publishing, interviews and what's next.

You’re celebrating 8 years of passerby – for someone who has never heard it, how would you describe it?

passerby is an online publication and community that celebrates every kind of woman. It was born out of my curiosity about the women I encountered all too briefly while people-watching -- quite literally, the women who pass us by. In our interviews, we go beyond mere accolades or credentials by delving into the intimate aspects of their lives and experiences. In doing so, we hope to create solidarity among women and challenge assumptions and stereotypes. 

How has the platform evolved and changed since you first started it? 

It's gone through many iterations! Everything from its visuals to how our readers engage with it. Nevertheless, its core remains steadfast: celebrating women and spotlighting those often overlooked.

When we hopped onto Discord last year, it really felt like passerby evolved into a real community. I've seen everything from new friendships forming to sublets in that space.

Our introduction of a monthly subscription, the passerby club, led us into the newsletter realm and a perks program with like-minded brands and institutions. We've collaborated with entities such as The Standard ;) for discounted stays, the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research for course discounts, and most recently, the prestigious New York Film Festival for exclusive film screenings.

I realized this wasn't just about them; it changed how I saw myself too.

And how have you changed since its inception? 

When I first started passerby, I thought I would meet women who out-navigated all the extreme expectations set on them. However, over the years, I've discovered quite the opposite – how ungentle women can be with themselves. I understood that we had a greater responsibility in how we portrayed the women we met, and how important (and often difficult) it was to break away from an aspirational lens. I realized this wasn't just about them; it changed how I saw myself too.

Tell us three of the most interesting interviews you’ve given and why.

I believe each interview is interesting in its own right because every woman has a story from which we can learn. However, one of the most memorable interviews I had the privilege of conducting was with my very own mother, Hengameh Farhang.

What’s next for passerby?

Print :)

Polaroids live forever...


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