At William & Mary, things are seldom as simple as they seem. There is always a story under the surface.
Inspired by the “Humans of New York” phenomenon started by Brandon Stanton, the William & Mary Student Assembly Department of Diversity, led by Dylan Frendt ‘14, recently began its own series of photographs and mini-interviews of people on and around campus. “Humans of William & Mary,” which has its own Tumblr and Facebook pages, seeks to capture the everyday stories that would otherwise be missed and to “explore the depths of people’s experiences.”
The group, which started with six founding photographers and Frendt himself, has quickly taken the campus by storm. Since the idea’s inception in August of 2013, the Facebook page has received more than 3,100 likes – more than 1,000 of those being in the first 24 hours. It has become a huge sensation on campus and has been covered by outside press agencies, as well.
Frendt thinks the immense popularity of the site is wonderful, but a little daunting.
“It’s a great feeling that it’s ballooning,” he says. “But at the same time, it comes with a greater obligation to have good subjects for our interviews, expose people from different backgrounds, and embrace campus culture.”
“Humans of William & Mary” is one of many similar “Humans of” projects that have been established in college campuses, cities and countries across the globe. After seeing “Humans of Iran,” the Student Assembly Department of Diversity was inspired by the “candidness of the project” and its potential to get rid of stigmas people have about others based on appearance.
While still holding true to the ideas of the original project, “Humans of William & Mary” adds its own Tribe flair. Pictures of dogs on Duke of Gloucester Street, people in colonial garb and students standing outside familiar buildings around campus appear frequently on the page. The photographers’ goal is to take pictures of random people they see on the street, ask them a few questions about their life’s story and publish the pictures and small excerpts from the interviews online.
“It’s a lot harder than just putting things up on Facebook or Tumblr,” Dylan said. “Our goal is to tap into what William & Mary really is. We want to reach out to everyone: faculty, staff, workers, students -- everyone. They are all part of the story, not just the students.”
Frendt has high hopes that the project will continue on after his own graduation this year. Many people have shown interest in filling in for the graduating seniors in the group, and approximately 35 people have applied to join the original seven. Although he does not plan to increase the number of photographers past 10, Frendt said that the group is interested to broadening their horizons in other areas, including making sections for drawings and videos.
Most of all, however, it is the spirit of the project that Frendt hopes will continue on in the future.“Every day, you can walk past somebody,” Frendt said. “Our goal is for you to realize there’s something beneath the surface. The individual human’s story is the most powerful and important story in the word.”