Students capture campus life through photos and conversations in Humans of UT

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Public relations sophomore Crysta Hernandez and advertising freshman Amy Tingle create Facebook page Humans of UT. They intend to increase the sense of community by telling stories of people on campus.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

With cameras and questions on hand, public relations sophomore Crysta Hernandez and advertising freshman Amy Tingle are always ready to capture snippets of the lives of people on campus. The duo shares these snapshots and conversations with the public through Humans of UT. 

Less than a month ago, Hernandez and Tingle launched their page, Humans of UT, on Facebook. Since then, the page has reached more than 1,000 likes and continues to gain popularity daily. Like the original site created by Brandon Stanton, Humans of UT features photos of random people on campus and excerpts of conversations that Hernandez and Tingle have with them.     

Humans of UT derives from Humans of New York, a popular blog created by Stanton, a photographer, four years ago. He originally set out to document photos of 10,000 New Yorkers, but, along the way, he began collecting and telling their stories. His project turned from a simple blog to a New York Times best-selling book. 

“Humans of UT is certainly not an original idea on our part,” Hernandez said. “We’re just taking [Stanton’s] idea and making it relevant to UT.”

A love for Humans of New York is a main reason that Tingle agreed to join Hernandez in this project. 

“I think it’s a powerful idea to look at people and say, ‘You’re special, we’re a part of this community, and there’s something similar about you and me, and I want to find out what that is,’” Tingle said. 

Hernandez solidified her idea for Humans of UT when her creative problem solving-class required her to do a personal project that involved developing and solving a problem. She proposed that UT lacks a strong sense of community and, setting a goal of 200 likes, used Humans of UT as her solution.

“Amy is a freshman, and I’m a transfer student, so, last semester, we were both new to UT,” Hernandez said. “I’m really happy to be here, but I felt lonely and awkward and wanted some kind of connection.”

Hernandez contacted Tingle about her idea after meeting in a photography class. The two made extensive plans about how far their project would go. They hoped to talk to professors for advice and attempted to contact Brandon Stanton, himself, but months passed, and nothing went as planned.  

“Life got busy, and we said we’d meet in two weeks and then another week and then another until, finally, [Hernandez] said she was just going to put up the page and [that], if I could put up photos too, that would be great,” Tingle said. 

The night Hernandez returned from spring break, she pinned posters promoting the page around campus kiosks. That Monday, she launched Humans of UT with a couple of photos, and, by Tuesday night, the page had hit 500 likes. Hernandez and Tingle have made it a point not to widely share with others that they are the creators of Humans of UT. The gains in popularity have mainly come from people sharing the photos they appear in. 

When looking for a subject to photograph, the girls search for members of the campus community. Typically, they find students with a story to tell, but, on occasion, the people they photograph have been alumni visiting campus or people on the Drag.

“The people we usually take pictures of seem pretty enthusiastic,” Tingle said. “If they don’t know what Humans of New York is, I explain, and they seem pretty interested to be involved.”

In approaching people for photos, Hernandez and Tingle begin conversations with them and try asking questions similar to those asked by Stanton.

“We’re working on it. We’re trying to make everything have a really strong message that’s relevant to people of UT,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez and Tingle have high hopes for Humans of UT and plan to make it a long-term project. They want to branch out onto other social media outlets, create a website and get more people involved with their project. 

“We just didn’t expect for it to take off so quickly,” Tingle said. “Other universities have had similar things happen and they’ve fallen through the cracks.”

Their current struggle is figuring out how to stay relevant throughout the summer. The duo hopes to stay true to their original message and keep Humans of UT until they graduate and can pass it on.

“Our mission statement is cheesy but true,” Hernandez said. “You pass by so many people everyday and don’t stop to think that they have a story, too.”