PARIS (AP) -- What does Hollywood movie star Martin Sheen have in common with an Afghan farmer, a Brazilian fisherman, a Bolivian miner, a German artist, and a Rwandan refugee?

They all took part in the latest project of French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, "6 Billion Others," a video portrait of mankind currently showing at Paris' Grand Palais, and with ambitions to travel the globe.

Arthus-Bertrand, 62, is best known for the UNESCO-sponsored "Earth from Above" project, an aerial photographic study of the planet found on coffee tables around the globe. With 6 Billion Others, he has turned his attention to the men and women he photographed from the skies.

Since 2003, over 5,000 people in 75 countries were asked the same questions: "Are you happy?" "How do you define love?" or "What would you like to change about your life?" Their answers are at times poignant, funny, sad, and inspirational.

"What is astonishing in 6 billion is that people speak about you," Arthus-Bertrand told The Associated Press in an interview.

"This exhibition is a mirror: it provokes emotion. It's a part of you which is speaking."

The idea was born after a helicopter breakdown in Mali forced Arthus-Bertrand to take a pause from "Earth from Above."

He spent the day sharing experiences, hopes and fears with a villager whose sole ambition was to feed his children.

The conversation convinced Arthus-Bertrand not only that he "wanted to get back close to people" after 10 years of flying above the planet, but also that every individual has something to teach the world.

Responses are grouped into themes such as "war," "happiness," "love stories," and "testing times." Viewers watch in dark tents surrounded by strangers. The closeness of the interviewee's faces generates a feeling of intimacy.

"To be totally happy, you have to be satisfied, which is very difficult," says an elegant woman from Tanzania.

"I am happy in my poverty," says a man from Ecuador. "I was happy with my husband. Since he has gone, the sun is missing," says an elderly Italian lady.

The tales in the hardship tent can be harrowing: war stories of rape, murder and kidnapping; but also the trials of unemployment, loosing a child or a loved one, divorce, unhappy marriages, being diagnosed HIV positive. Many people leave in tears.

"The hardest thing in my life is the war," says a woman from Chechnya who survived being kidnapped. "What did I learn from those years? To forgive probably."

Many claim to be making confessions that they have never told anyone before, from a young Pakistani lady who was beaten by her father, to a French woman whose daughter is in prison. Arthus-Bertrand said for many people the experience is like unburdening to a psychiatrist.

He says he's learned many things from the film, but he isn't sure whether the exhibition answers any fundamental questions.

"In this globalized world when we all depend on each other, we have to listen to each other," he said. "There is no message: it's the people who have something to say."


Practical information:

The exhibition lasts until Feb. 12 at the Grand Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris (metro Champs-Elysees-Cleme nceau, Franklin D. Roosevelt). French bank BNP Paribas SA is the main sponsor of the project, to the tune of ?3 million ($3.87 million), and Arthus-Bertrand is looking for new funds to take the project to the U.S. and around the world.

Many stories can be heard on the web at, where you can also become a part of the "6 Billion Others" and leave your own message.