Every Sunday afternoon, the Humans of the Forty Acres team walks around campus getting to know seven random strangers. The only things they bring: a camera, a recorder, and a couple of prepared interview questions.
Humans of the Forty Acres, a photo blog which Jordan Cope, international relations and liberal arts honors freshman, Daniel Orr, classics and Plan II freshman and Gauthier Fally, economics freshman, founded operates like its namesake blog, Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. The founders post one picture and an accompanying quote per day on Facebook to spotlight people around campus. The project began three months ago when the founders realized it might potentially take off on a large campus like UT. Humans of Forty Acres now has more than 900 “likes” on Facebook.
“It just seemed like everyone’s on social media here, it could have a big following, and it’d be a fun project to do,” said Cope. “So I approached my other co-founders, and I was like, ‘How would you guys be interested in something like Humans of the Quad?’”
Humans of the Forty Acres did start smaller — as Humans of the Quad. It focused mainly on students who lived within the Honors Quad — Carothers, Andrews, Blanton and Littlefield dormitories. As the Facebook page became more popular, the team decided to change the page’s name to attract a larger audience base. After switching to the new name a week ago, Humans of the Forty Acres now features students from across the University.
Parth Kalaria, business honors and pre-med freshman and the page’s webmaster, said the team has already seen more diversity and variety in subjects’ responses.
“Given the fact that UT isn’t a small, private college — it’s a big, large state university — the only way people are going to have a sense of what others are like around them is through forums like this,” Kalaria said.
Orr said the team aims to promote cohesion among UT students, staff, fans and alumni.
“We’re trying to create a community,” Orsaid said. “We’re trying to use this as a form of coalescence.”
Fally said he believes the job encourages stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
“I think also the message is, it’s really not that hard to meet people,” Fally said. “It’s a lot easier than you’d think to meet
Saniya Walawalkar, design freshman and one of the team’s photographers, said that her favorite interactions happen when the interviewee forgets that the camera is there, making for a more candid and honest shot.
“That’s when you know they’ve relaxed conversationally — when they don’t care that I’m snapping pictures of them,” Walawalkar said. “At the end of the day, we’re aiming for genuine, which comes with imperfections.”
Although they have had many successful interviews, the members of the team said they still experience anxiety when approaching potential interviewees.
“In all honesty, it’s like asking a person to dance,” Cope said. “You don’t want to do it, but you want to do it, and you’ve got to just put everything aside and go for it … and sometimes we get rejected. And we go crying on the other side of the room.”