Behind the lens of ‘Humans of Bucknell’

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Behind the lens of ‘Humans of Bucknell’

Graphic by Ellen O'Donnell, Graphics Manager

Graphic by Ellen O'Donnell, Graphics Manager

Graphic by Ellen O'Donnell, Graphics Manager

Caroline Fassett, News Editor

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A student who describes himself as “just a man behind a camera who listens to people” sits in the student space of the Elaine Langone Center at 5 p.m. on a Saturday. A member of the class of 2016, he glances at his Nikon D5100 digital camera as he discusses one of the greatest difficulties he faces as one of three students running the ‘Humans of Bucknell’ Facebook page.

“There are definitely some people who know I do [the page]. Sometimes they’ll come up to me and say, ‘you should interview me,’ or ‘you should do this,’ or ‘I’m really cool, I want to be on the page.’ That’s pretty hard for me because I put a lot of thought into the people I choose to talk to … It also can change the feel of the conversation that we would have,” he said.

Choosing to remain anonymous for this article, the student explained that he does sometimes feature people he knew beforehand on the page. Other times, he is more spontaneous.

“I’ll be walking around with my camera and I’ll see someone there and I’ll think, ‘Hey, that person would be awesome [for the page].’ Because sometimes you can just tell. I can see it in the way somebody’s walking, or in their facial expression, or in the way they’re talking to someone,” he said.

Every few weeks, this student or his collaborators will post photos of students or faculty they interview for the online page. These photos are paired with statements made by the interviewee that particularly “hit home” for them.

The student said that some interviews last between 10 and 15 minutes, and others have gone as long as an hour and a half.

“I love that though, because I get to ask all these questions that some people don’t really think about all that often. Like, ‘What do you value most in life?’ I really like asking that. Some people take awhile to respond, and some people just get stumped. But that’s always okay; they don’t have to answer every question that I ask them,” he said.

One of the student’s favorite questions to ask others is whether there is one moment in their lives that they’ll never forget.

“That gets people thinking. And they’ll say, ‘I have so many!’ and I’ll respond, ‘Tell me all of them.’ And then they’ll think about it, and they’ll turn away and look down, and those are signs that they’re getting more vulnerable. But they’re deep in thought because those moments really matter to them,” he said.

The student said that he felt “thankful” that other people feel comfortable enough with him to speak about troubling subjects.

“Sometimes I just have to stop for a bit, because [what was shared] was very personal or thought provoking. It’s not easy. But it’s part of what I do … it’s part of what the page is for, because everyone has their own story,” he said.

Max Leconte ’14 created the page in March 2014. Shortly thereafter, Leconte asked the student to help him run the page so that it could remain active after he graduated.

“When he started it, [Leconte] said that he had no idea what it would become. And he still keeps in contact with us, talking about how much the page has grown. He never expected it to get over 500 likes, and now we have close to 2,000,” the student said.

Acknowledging the popularity of the page, the student said that he felt lucky to be giving others the opportunity to fully express themselves.

“It’s hard to break down that brick wall that everyone has up, that’s their vulnerability. And … they’ll tell me. And it doesn’t keep me up at night, but sometimes I’ll stop and think about why they’re telling me these personal stories about their lives. Like what makes me different: the fact that I have this camera, a recorder, and a notebook, and that I’m listening to them talk? Or [do] they just trust me?” he said.

The student said that before he graduates, he will post between two and three more profiles of students on the page, as well as a send-off in which he reveals his identity. He said that he hopes that the campus populace will continue to “just be human,” recognize that they’re incredible, and share their stories.

“That’s what they really are; they’re stories. Those words speak so many volumes and they start conversations and they make it all real. And I wouldn’t trade [hearing them] for the world. The page, after all, is for Bucknell, for Bucknellians and everyone to share their stories,” he said.

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