Posts filed under ‘Campus events’

The Evolution of ‘Humans of New York’

DSC_1609_Brandon_Stanton

Brandon Stanton in Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium. (photo by Tina Hay)

Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York franchise, had some good advice for the 2,500 Penn State students who came to see him in Eisenhower Auditorium last night:

Don’t wait for perfect.

In the space of just four years, Stanton has gone from an unemployed bond trader to Internet sensation. His Facebook page—featuring his iconic photos and stories of everyday people—has more than 10 million likes, and his 2013 book, Humans of New York, spent 21 weeks on The New York Times Best-Seller List. A follow-up book, Little Humans, is due out next week.

But it didn’t happen all at once, he told the audience last night. Instead, he found his niche through an evolution, a gradual series of tweaks to his approach.

In 2010, as a 26-year-old bond trader in Chicago, Stanton “was looking for a hobby,” and after winning $4,000 in a football pool, he bought his first camera. Originally he photographed landscapes and landmarks in Chicago. When he eventually started taking photos of people, it was from far away, without their knowing.

Then, for a while, he would find someone who was engrossed in something—say, reading a newspaper—and position himself on one knee, waiting for them to look up and realize he was there. When they did, he’d snap their photo—which, needless to say, they didn’t always appreciate.

“I didn’t know you could ask people to take their photo,” he says simply.

HONY founder Brandon Stanton at an Eisenhower Auditorium news conference. (photo by Tina Hay)

HONY founder Brandon Stanton at an Eisenhower Auditorium news conference. (photo by Tina Hay)

When he finally did start asking, he was pleasantly surprised at how many people said yes: “I remember feeling such satisfaction. And I realized, This is kind of special.”

About five weeks into his new hobby, Stanton got fired from his job, and got the idea to move to New York City to pursue his street photography. Given New York’s rich diversity of people, he says, “I just thought, This would be such a great place to do a [photo] blog.

“I was sleeping on a mattress in the cheapest room I could possibly find in Bedford-Stuyvesant, taking 20 to 30 portraits a day,” he recalls. “And that went on for six months, in complete anonymity. It was a very hard and lonely time.

“Then I discovered Facebook.”

Stanton created a Facebook page, began posting a few photos a day, and the fans started trickling in—a huge antidote to the loneliness. “I started noticing names of people I didn’t know who were following my work. It was the most liberating feeling in the entire world … it lifted a million pounds off my shoulders.”

At first the photos carried only short captions, if any. So another turning point came in late 2011 when he started attaching stories to the photos. Stanton recounted having been sick with the flu and unable to get outside to shoot new portraits, so he rooted around in his existing photos and found one of a woman dressed entirely in green—even green hair. He remembered that she had said something to him that day, and he decided to put her comment into the caption:

HONY screen grab

The caption reads:

“So do you do a different color every day?”
“No, I used to go through different stages. But then I found that I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”

The photo—one that Stanton had initially regarded as a “throwaway”—became an instant hit. (Currently it has nearly 156,000 “likes.”) Stanton changed his approach accordingly, and now spends as much time talking with each of his subjects as he does shooting their photos; brief excerpts from those conversations now accompany the portraits he posts to his Facebook page. The questions he asks are personal—”What is your greatest struggle right now?” “Can you remember the time when you felt the most afraid?”—and the answers he gets are surprisingly honest.

In August and September of this year, Stanton took his HONY concept to an international level, doing a 50-day world tour in partnership with the United Nations. His photos of schoolchildren, shopkeepers, and young mothers in such countries as Iraq, Israel, and Ukraine revealed that even in areas ravaged by conflict, people are … well, people. There’s a reason for that, he told his audience last night: He went out of his way to look for ordinary people and moments.

“If I’m covering a rally or protest with 12 journalists, and they all have cameras … there could be one guy who’s really angry and all 12 photographers will be gathered around that person. And that’s the photo that goes out to the world. People want to find the extreme images and stories; those are what really sell newspapers.

“I wanted to depict normality in places where very extreme headlines are coming out … to apply this normal intimate process in some scary places.

“I’m just trying to show normality. Not extremity, just normalcy.”

Stanton’s lecture last night was sponsored by the Penn State Student Programming Association.

Tina Hay, editor

October 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm 1 comment

‘A Norm of Caring': Experts Discuss Child Abuse Prevention

pinwheelsThe HUB Auditorium was silent.

Jennie Noll, director of Penn State’s Network on Child Protection and Well-Being, had just asked if anyone in the audience knew how many children in the United States were affected each year by abuse. Not one person raised a hand.

Noll revealed the answer: nearly 2 million. Silence again.

“How come we don’t know that?” asked Noll. “How come everyone doesn’t know that?”

That difficult question was the focus of last night’s panel discussion, “Making a Difference, Every Day… Preventing Child Abuse Begins With You.” At the event, sponsored in part by the Alumni Association, keynote speaker James Hmurovich, CEO and president of Prevent Child Abuse America, led an honest, emotional discussion about the issues of child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment — and the ways communities can keep kids safe. Some highlights from Hmurovich’s address:

-Because of his background in the Indiana Department of Corrections, Hmurovich became aware of the strong link between child abuse and juvenile delinquency. When he learned that 63 percent of the girls and boys in the Indiana juvenile correction system had been abused as children, “I started to put together the puzzle pieces,” he says.

-In his work with the Child Welfare Department, Hmurovich recalls talking with women who were able to successfully get off welfare. In describing how they did it, he says, their stories all began with the same phrase: “Someone took the time to …” Hmurovich’s takeway: It’s up to us, individually and as a community, to “create a norm of caring.”

-Hmurovich says federal legislators must create public policy and provide tools for parents and caregivers to ensure healthy childhood development, he says. “Our public policy in the U.S. isn’t exactly where it should be.”

Later in the evening, as part of the panel discussion, Montgomery County assistant district attorney and Alumni Association vice president Kevin Steele ’92g talked about the importance of child advocacy centers, like the ones he’s helped establish throughout Pennsylvania with non-profit group Mission Kids. Because these centers employ “investigative teams” of experts to interview children after abuse, victims aren’t forced to retell their stories to multiple people during the legal process — an experience that’s often painful, he says. The goal of Mission Kids and programs like it, explained Steele, is not only to achieve justice, but to promote healing for victims of abuse.

Steele also encouraged students in the audience to stay involved with child abuse prevention programs even after graduation, explaining that many PSAA chapters are active with child protection organizations around the country.

At the end of the evening, guests were invited to take blue pinwheels — a symbol, explained Hmurovich, of “every child’s right to a happy, healthy childhood.”

Mary Murphy, associate editor

 

April 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — April 16, 2014

Screen-Shot-2014-04-15-at-10.26.01-AM-580x348Herb Hand Pizza Crawl! I have no idea what kind of an offensive line coach Herb Hand is, although we’re soon going to find out, given that the Nittany Lions barely have enough linemen to fill a two-deep. But there’s no doubt that the guy is a social media genius. Hand tweeted in February about stopping at Canyon Pizza for lunch. This understandably shocked the Penn State corner of Twitter, many of whom had no idea Canyon served food before, oh, 11 p.m. or so. Soon everyone was tweeting their favorite pizza places at Hand, and then Onward State got involved, and now there’s a glorious result: the Herb Hand Pizza Crawl. For $20, on April 27 you can accompany Hand and, as Onward put it, “explore the State College pizza scene.”

You also get a limited edition T-shirt, which I very much hope looks like the logo (above) I borrowed from Onward State’s website, and the proceeds go to Uplifting Athletes and Bands 4 RAINN. I imagine this will fill up soon, so if you’re interested, sign up quickly.

Dare I hope that the next such charity event is a James Franklin Balloon Party?

Good writing alert: If I’ve got a “coaching tree,” consisting of the young journalists I’ve mentored when they were students, among the most excellent branches are Jenny Vrentas ’06 and former Penn Stater intern Emily Kaplan ’13, who are colleagues at Sports Illustrated‘s MMQB website. So when Jenny tweets a story written by Emily, I click. This morning’s offering is a piece that uses the upcoming film Draft Day as a look at female executives in the NFL. Spoiler: Real life isn’t quite as it’s portrayed in the movie.

Ready for prime time: The Nittany Lions are going to get significant exposure in prime time this fall: The Ohio State game on Oct. 25 will start at 8 p.m. That caps an odd October for the team, which has two off weeks (Oct. 4 and 18) and two prime-time games. The game at Michigan on Oct. 11, as previously announced, will begin at 7 p.m.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

 

 

 

April 16, 2014 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — April 15, 2014

Monday Night Live: Kenan Thompson brought big laughs to Eisenhower Auditorium last night as part of the Student Programming Association’s Comedy Month. Thompson, who’s been a cast member on Saturday Night Live for a whopping 11 seasons, performed stand-up and answered audience members’ questions about SNL. Check out the Collegian’s coverage here (warning: some of Thompson’s material borders on NSFW). My favorite snippet: When asked which celebrity made the worst guest host, Thompson demurred—but admitted that her name just happens to rhyme with “Baris Milton.”

Coming soon: Here’s some cool news about a program coming to University Park in July: The “Summer Academy for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired” is a three-week program that helps visually impaired students transition to a life in a college setting, with networking workshops and career-planning help. The academy is spearheaded by Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; Penn State students in the College of Education will work as chaperones. Read more here.

Phoenix rising: Maggie Lucas is headed west: The Lady Lion senior guard was selected by the Phoenix Mercury with the 21st overall pick in the WNBA draft last night. The Phoenix Mercury last won the WNBA championship in 2009; this year, the team finished third in the West conference. Lucas, who’s coming off her own record-breaking season, shared her reaction on Twitter (below): 

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.11.37 AM

Mary Murphy, associate editor

 

April 15, 2014 at 11:35 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — April 4, 2014

He’s got CLASS: Tim Frazier ’13 was named a First Team Senior CLASS Award finalist yesterday. The award, which stands for “Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School,” honors seniors who excel on the court and in the classroom. Finalists are selected by Division 1 coaches nationwide.

Spreading the love: Got spirit? That’s what it’s all about next week, during Blue & White Society’s PSi(heart)U week, a seven-day celebration of Penn State pride. Themed events throughout campus will get alumni and students psyched up for Blue-White Weekend. Check out the full schedule of events here.

Young at heart: Speaking of spirit, have you read yesterday’s post about 102-year-old birthday girl Peg Barnard Chalfant ’34? She’s the second-oldest Penn State alumna in the world, a former May Queen, and a current Kindle lover. I think Peg’s memories from her college days—and her thoughts on growing older—will definitely make you smile.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

April 4, 2014 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

Photos from Penn State Football’s ‘Signature Event’

Our pal Curtis Chan ’94, ’03g, who works over in the College of Engineering and who does a little sports photography on the side, took some photos for us last night in the Jordan Center, at the “Signature Event” that new football coach James Franklin staged to celebrate Penn State’s success on National Signing Day. We thought you might enjoy seeing some of them; here’s a quick slide show:

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Thanks for the images, Curtis!

Tina Hay, editor

February 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Feb. 6, 2014

LaVar Arrington works the crowd at yesterday's Signing Day event at the BJC. Photo by Curtis Chan.

LaVar Arrington works the crowd at yesterday’s Signing Day event at the BJC. Photo by Curtis Chan.

Signing of the times: Yesterday, we told you about the morning’s National Signing Day extravaganza in the Lasch Building (there was an omelet station, people). But that was just the beginning. Last night’s “Signature Event” at the BJC featured even more fanfare, with help from the Blue Band, the cheerleaders, and LaVar Arrington ’00, who helped Coach James Franklin introduce the recruits. Check out the Football Letter’s recap here.

A powerful message: The Winter Olympics in Sochi are upon us, and on the eve of the opening ceremony, former NBA player John Amaechi ’94 is speaking out against’s Russia’s anti-gay laws. In a piece from yesterday’s The Guardian, Amaechi encourages athletes to use social media to “make their position clear.” Those who don’t speak out, he says, are complicit: “For me, silence in the face of attendance in Sochi is complicity. You become nothing more than another Sochi mascot that people can have their photograph taken with as a memento of the abdication of responsibility.”

Snow daze: It’s a question most of us probably asked ourselves yesterday morning, while trudging through the slippery sludge around University Park: What does it take for Penn State to get a snow day? Well, as Onward State‘s Ali Fogarty found out, the answer is fairly complex — and it involves an official “snow marshal.”

Mary Murphy, associate editor

February 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

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