Marcus Connolly, The Paisano
Perhaps many of you are familiar with “Humans of New York,” the photoblog featuring portraits and interviews of New York City residents, which began in 2010 and now has millions of followers worldwide. Most likely, less of you are familiar with its local spinoff, “Humans of UTSA,” which is about three weeks old.
Its creator, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a UTSA student who was inspired by the medium of expression “Humans of New York” uses to share stories. Experiences in programs such as LeaderShape, in which people tell their own personal stories with a group, led him to realize that with this sharing comes a sense of empowerment for both the storyteller and the listener.
A self-taught photographer who experimented with a camera to document his last semester of high school with his friends, the “Humans of UTSA” creator noticed that many other Texas college campuses had their own ‘Humans of…’ Facebook pages but UTSA did not. After receiving encouragement to start a page before someone else did, he quickly set up what is now “Humans of UTSA,” with almost 600 likes.
He aims for consistency, making an effort to post two photos every day by spending about an hour a day walking around campus armed with a camera and a friendly smile. He chooses who to talk to based on whether or not they seem approachable.
“If I see someone that’s on their own, that’s one thing,” he says. “If they’re sitting down, if they’re not in a hurry, that’s another.”
Typically, one in every five people he asks to photograph has even heard of “Humans of New York,” and even fewer know about “Humans of UTSA,” but most are happy to talk and have their stories heard. The creator of Humans of San Antonio will ask a question about their biggest fear or struggle, and continue the conversation from there. He asserts that we all live by similar philosophies — “carpe diem,” “live life to the fullest,” etc. — but each person’s experiences are vastly different, and this is what he aims to capture.
The reactions to his work have been overwhelmingly positive. Some of the people he has interviewed have said that after sharing their stories, they felt relieved. In the reception that their words receive via the Facebook page and in the interviews with the creator, they are heard. As students talk to a complete stranger, they sometimes find it easier to divulge freely without fearing judgment.
Both the photographer and his subjects were surprised by the project’s success. The page’s creator attributes this chiefly to Dr. Ann Eisenberg, the Associate Dean of UTSA’s Honors College. According to him, Dr. Eisenberg’s enthusiasm for the project and her promotion of it on her own Facebook page led to a huge surge in Humans of UTSA’s popularity.
As for the creator of the page, he prefers to remain anonymous in order to keep the focus on individuals whose photos and lives are shared online. He believes it should be about these individuals only. Additionally, he doesn’t want anyone to like the page out of support for him personally, but would prefer that the project grow organically, spreading via word of mouth and shared links. When it comes time for him to graduate, the anonymity will help ease the transition between himself and the next person to run Humans of UTSA. With each new year, a new wave of students will enter the university with new experiences to be shared. The page will be passed on to someone who is passionate, dedicated and genuinely interested in continuing that mission.
“I’m really big into [outer] space,” he says. “A lot of people see space as something extra, something that’s beyond care because of all that happens in our world today. But I believe that pushing the boundaries of space will be the inspiration of a new generation.”
And indeed, it has served as his inspiration for becoming the storyteller of Humans of UTSA. Sharing these experiences is important because, as he says, “there is only one individual who is yourself, and among the universe, you are special.”
Interested? Read more at facebook.com/UTSAHumans.