Walking around the University of Texas at Brownsville campus, one likely will see plenty of faces. Jennifer McGehee-Valdez, special projects coordinator for student affairs, knows every face has a story.
Inspired by Humans of New York, McGehee-Valdez wanted to create something similar.
In October 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began the Humans of New York website. The site now has a following of 5.9 million Facebook likes.
“I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map,” Stanton said on humansofnewyork.com.
The site seeks to show a glimpse of who others are and what their stories are. Humans of UTB now has its own Facebook page.
“Humans of New York started as a website,” McGehee-Valdez said. “Its photographer, whose name is Brandon, is just out on the streets of the city and he takes photos of any everyday kind of people and he captures the moment, he gets a quote from them.”
McGehee said the project gleans an insight of who each person really is. Capturing the moment and getting a quote brings the candid photos to life.
With the help of five student photographers — Vivian Zapata, Martha Ortiz, Rebekah Bonner, Blanca Villarreal and Josie Del Castillo — along with Estela Martinez, coordinator for the Center for Civic Engagement, McGehee-Valdez already has gathered a following of nearly 500 likes on Facebook since she created the page in April.
“I used to live in New York City, so I get it,” McGehee-Valdez said. “I get that you see people all the time, and you just don’t know who these people are. What I loved about his page, which has just blown up, and why I thought it was so important to create a Humans of UTB page, is that there’s this amazing sincerity about it.”
Honesty is what makes the page so special, McGehee said.
“Personally, I see faces all the time, every day, that I have no idea who these people are, and some of these faces I see more than family members — and I know nothing about them,” she said.
A warm approach to asking questions is the best way to get the most sincere, honest response and a meaningful quote. The photographers ask simple questions like, “What would you risk your life for?”, “What’s your biggest dream in life?” and “What would you say is one of the most important things in life?”
“That’s why I think this is such a cool project, because we’re getting a little insight to familiar faces, not familiar faces; you’ll meet somebody new or you might see someone you had a class with.”
McGehee-Valdez said that getting all the photographers on the same page was not a problem.
“It was very easy getting people on board; I call it collaboration,” she said.
For now there are only a few photographers, but McGehee-Valdez is open to adding more.
“Well, I think this project is really cool because it may inspire students to get involved with their fellow classmates,” photographer Ortiz said. “It just makes you realize that everyone has something interesting to say and that school is not only to study but that it can also be an awesome social experience.”
The site has only been around a short while, but it still has received a following. Even during the summer months, the photographers will be around UTB taking pictures of people on campus.
“I like that it’s been growing on its own,” McGehee-Valdez said.
To view the Humans of UTB, visit facebook.com/humansofutb.