Academy Chronicle

The Humans Behind “Humans of BCA”

Meena Raman

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Humans of BCA is a rapidly growing student- run page. But who is behind this popular page?

Humans of BCA is a rapidly growing student- run page. But who is behind it?

Pictures are worth a thousand words but, thanks to the influence of social media, they might just be worth more. As photography blogs and websites rapidly grow in popularity, aspiring photographers strive to capture life’s beauty and complexity in new and exciting ways. One of the most popular examples of this phenomenon occurs through Brandon Stanton, creator of the critically-acclaimed collection of pictures, “Humans of New York.” Stanton was able to achieve monumental popularity by publishing his images on Facebook, and his blog’s many inspiring images are both highly distinguishable and viral. Hoping to emulate Brandon’s realistic, yet vivid, photography are the creators of a more local Facebook page: Humans of BCA (HoBCA.) This page was started by three students at the Academies, who wanted capture the diversity within BCA’s halls by using their photography skills. Their page has received high popularity among the student body, with 1,094 likes as of May 19th, and it continues to release pictures of daily life at BCA. This week, I was able to meet with the three founders, photographers, and managers of the page, each of whom shared their motivation for starting the page,  their goals for its future, and the influences in their photography.  

ACADEMY CHRONICLE: I remember that you said that you (HoBCA #1) were mainly in charge of the page! So how, and when, did you conceive the idea for Humans of BCA?

HoBCA #1: I think I got the idea around a month ago. I had posted in my grade’s group on Facebook about it on April 5th to ask if they thought it would be a good idea and if there were any good photographers out there. And I suppose I got the idea mainly from Humans of New York, of course, and seeing how diverse and interesting everyone can be, and whenever I walked around the school hallways you could see a lot of diversity there also. So I thought a spin-off of HONY would be cool, especially with the talented and incredible students at school.

That’s really cool! I completely see what you mean about the diversity within our student body. So how did you go about starting the page? Were you contacted by interested photographers?

HoBCA #1: Well, after I had posted the question about HoBCA, I got a message from HoBCA #3 asking if she could be a photographer, and I knew she was our class historian and I was always pretty friendly with her so I told her of course she could join. The day after, we brought in cameras and got a few pictures and after we got the pictures I made the page. After it had gotten a couple hundred likes and the word had begun to spread, HoBCA #2 asked me if she could be a photographer, and of course I said yes, I was friends with her too and I knew she was a great photographer. I had gotten requests from other people later but we all thought that three was enough.

HoBCA #2: It was HoBCA #1’s idea first, she created the page, and I saw it and I had photography skills before that, so I reached out to her asking if she needed help with the page, and that’s how I got involved. HoBCA # 3:

HoBCA #1 first thought of the idea and posted about it on the Facebook page we have for freshmen. I asked her if I could help her out with the page and since then it’s become a group effort.

The likes for the page increased really rapidly! How did you respond to that kind of attention, and did you change your approach towards managing the page? Also, because the likes have increased so much in the page, have the amount of people willing to take a picture increased as well?

HoBCA #2: Yes, definitely. At the beginning there were a lot of people who were hesitant but now [that] more people know the page, it’s more likely that they’ll say yes…I thought that it was insane [that] it moved so quickly so I didn’t really expect that. I thought that it was great that so much of that happened in such a short amount of time. The upperclassmen are definitely more excited when you ask them to take their picture…and it’s great that more people recognize it.

HoBCA #1: I mean, I was ecstatic about it getting attention, even in school people started asking me if I could take their picture! But honestly, the success didn’t really change the way we were going to run it. We always stick to a question and a portrait of a couple of people, and once people had heard of the page, it was way easier to get pictures (of upperclassman especially.)

HoBCA #3: We are all surprised by the success of the page. I remember being hesitant when making the first post and the relief I felt when people immediately started liking the page. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments and we’re happy as long as the page is something everyone can enjoy. Hopefully people outside of BCA also like the page and our audience continues to grow.

Because some people ask you to take their picture, do you usually take pictures based upon request? Furthermore, how do you find people to photograph for the page, and how do you approach them?

HoBCA #1: We do usually take their picture, but we don’t post every picture we take, like we take around 7 to 10 pictures a day, and only post around 2 or 3. Usually, if someone asks for a picture, it’s more rehearsed and less natural which is less of what we’re going for on the page. And for the most part we go for people who are alone when we take pictures or a small group of friends, around 2 to 3 people. At first when we tried to approach people, it was awkward and we got a lot of no’s, we went during our frees, just around the hallways or in any of the cafeterias. Soon enough though, we’d ask if they were familiar with the page, and then they’d say something like, “Oh, you’re humans of BCA??” and they’d be willing to get their picture taken. Teachers were also almost always willing, and they’re also extremely interesting, and really nice about taking pictures (except for a few.)

HoBCA #2: A lot of our first pictures tended to be freshman just because they were the people we knew, but after time we started expanding. If we saw someone we thought was interesting in the hall, we would ask them a question and approach them, and generally people would be really nice, and they’d let us take a picture and ask a question. And, yeah, I usually come with my camera and usually another member of the page, and we’ll come up to them and introduce ourselves, saying “We’re members of the Facebook page [Humans of BCA], and if they don’t know what it is, we’ll explain it to them, and we’ll ask them a question…it depends, if we see them doing something interesting we’ll ask them a question based on that, and basically we just go up and ask and if they say yes we’ll go up to them and take a picture and ask a question.

HoBCA #3: Of course, there are people at school that everyone seems to know and I like to ask them questions so people can go on the page and see a familiar face. With that said, it’s a lot of fun talking to people that you would never approach normally. At BCA especially, I feel like everybody has a unique story to tell.

That’s really interesting, especially in regards to you keeping a natural atmosphere within your portraits! Why don’t you upload all of your photos? How do people typically react when you ask them for a photograph?

HoBCA #3: Depends on the person’s personality. Most of them don’t know whether to pose or to act like they don’t notice the camera.

HoBCA #2: I actually had one person that was really excited, and that actually made my day, but most people are excited. I’ve only had one person reject it….We don’t upload all of the pictures. I’ll take some, then I realize that they’re not as good as I thought, or I’ll go back to a person and ask a different question because I’ll see that the quote doesn’t really match the picture, but there are definitely some pictures that we don’t upload.

How frequently do you aim to upload photographs?

HoBCA #3: We try to upload 2 to 4 a night because it can be difficult getting around to a lot of people each day. I personally like to take a lot of pictures one day and then use those throughout the week. We also limit the amount of pictures a day because we don’t want to have the issue where we run out of people to interview and photograph.

Do you guys go around together in your free time, or do you go around individually?

HoBCA #2: It depends. If we both have frees together, we’ll go together, but I’ll go around individually. It’s more intimidating but it works both ways.

Also, do you typically prompt people’s quotes, and ask questions, and if so, do you have a set list of questions to ask? Also, how have you transferred the questions from HONY to Humans of BCA?

HoBCA#1: We don’t upload all of them just because, first, it would blow up everyone’s news feed, and our notifications more than it already does, [and] second, because if we posted a lot of pictures everyday it would take away the “special-ness” of the pictures and the whole concept. And in the beginning we mostly got awkward shaking of heads from people saying no, or saying that they’re not interesting, they should pick someone else, and we still get those now, but much less. Instead we get more people excited about the idea of them getting a picture, but they’re still pretty shy, unless we know the person we’re photographing. And I don’t really think we prompt people’s quotes, I mean we write down what they said verbatim, but we do have a set of questions to ask because it’s really hard to ask questions on the spot to people. (Or, we take just a piece of what they said to make it more meaningful, it really depends on each person.) And we noticed that HoNY always asks about something they’re wearing, or something they’re holding, or if they look ordinary, he asks questions that are really thought provoking, so in that aspect we try and stay similar.

HoBCA #3: Usually, the quotes are prompted. We do have a set list of questions to ask and a lot of those were actually made with the help of our friends who don’t run the page. I think Brandon Stanton is brilliant in the sense that he really knows how to evoke amazing story from someone in nearly any situation. We’ve gotten a lot of ideas from HoNY and we hope to post the most interesting and entertaining quotes as possible. It’s difficult asking a stranger to open up to you… HoBCA #2: A lot of times we will try to adapt to what they’re doing, so there’s a picture of someone dancing on there, and we took the picture adapting to the thing that we asked them, and a bunch of times we see them doing something, so we adapt the question based on that. But if there’s not something like that, we’ll ask a question, like HoNY does.

I definitely notice that you kept certain elements from HONY with your page! Are there any other ways that you try to evoke Brandon Stanton/HONY’s style within your page?

HoBCA #1: I mean, I think what’s special about Stanton’s pictures is the rawness of the pictures, they’re not all the same, not everyone is smiling and facing forwards, instead each picture is different, and the picture, along with the words, tells a story, and I think we take that pretty seriously in our pictures, so as not to bore people, but also to further in telling the story.

How do you try to keep a natural atmosphere within your portraits to keep it real and relatable?

HoBCA #2: Usually, we won’t ask someone to take a picture, but we will take one when they are thinking about the question or something related to the questions we ask.  We try not to get 100 people smiling at the camera because that would be boring, so we try to keep it natural and relaxed.

Do you plan on expanding the past this school day (i.e. do you plan on photographing Humans of BCA at special or after-school events, or solely during the school day?)

HoBCA #1: …To be honest I don’t know. I usually go home after school, and so do HoBCA #2 and HoBCA #3 I think, but I guess if we stayed one day after school, we could get some good pictures…but I doubt it would ever be a regular thing. But definitely during special school events during the day we’ll get pictures, such as field day or Halloween next year or maybe some dances, but for the most part it’s during the school day. (for now at least.)

HoBCA #3: We’ll definitely be at the picnic in May. We’re not sure of any other events at the moment but we’ll try to attend as many as possible. HoBCA #2: We were trying to plan to do stuff at the picnic, and introducing it to the incoming freshmen, and I think we’d like to take it outside of school in that aspect.

That’s really cool, I’m interested in seeing how that plays out! What is your favorite aspect of photographing (and uploading photos) of Humans of BCA?

HoBCA #1: Definitely the feedback. We always get such nice messages about the page. Photographing itself, I like seeing how people pose because we don’t tell people what to do and sometimes we take pictures while they talk, but sometimes after they answer the question, we ask them if we can take their picture now and each person does a very different thing, so I guess I like the variance of everyone at school and how different they can be from what you think about them.

HoBCA #2: I really like capturing people and their personalities in pictures and I think it’s really interesting how a picture can display who a person is… For me, it gives me more of a sense of community to bring together the school to some point.

HoBCA #3: My favorite aspect of photographing Humans of BCA is getting to know a little more of what our student body’s really like. I’m normally a shy person and find it extremely difficult to approach others but running this page has pushed me to make more of an effort. I get to interact with people that I would have never talked to normally. Being a part of Humans of BCA has created a experience for me and I couldn’t be more grateful.

The positive feedback definitely seems amazing and suits how amazing the page is! Lastly, I was wondering, do you have any goals for Humans of BCA? How do you plan on continuing to grow the page, and are there any new directions that you hope to take?

HoBCA #2: [We have] the general of goal of it is creating a sense of community and expanding throughout BCA and just becoming more of a well-known thing and having an impact on BCA… We try to get at least a new picture every day, and I understand that after time, it will probably start to slow down a little, but we would probably try to get at least 4 or 5 a week, and that’s really our goal. I hope that it keeps continuing the way it is, and people continue to like it and recognize it. We really haven’t thought that far though.

HoBCA #1: I guess the only goal is that it becomes a tradition at school, and once we’re seniors it’d be cool to hand it down to a freshman, that sort of thing. And as long as we keep asking for pictures and posting them, I’m sure it will keep going strong and from what I’ve heard, a lot of people’s town friends have liked the page. I think because it’s a county school, everyone who doesn’t go to BCA but has friends who do would like the page, and at some point I hope more people do.  But even if they don’t, it’s not a big deal, just the fact that we can take the pictures and people are so kind about it is great. Other than that, I don’t think we’re planning on going on any new directions.

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The Humans Behind “Humans of BCA”