Students introduce you to the 'Humans of Western'

By Adela Talbot
January 30, 2014

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HUMANS_westernAdela Talbot, Western News

Cathy Chen, a first-year Computer Science student, curates Humans of Western, a photography blog that showcases a wide array of members in the campus community.

Behind every face is a story.

Thanks to Humans of Western, you can get to know both the faces, and the stories, of the campus community.

Modeled after Humans of New York, a photography blog and book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City, Humans of Western showcases a wide array of members of the campus community. Portraits are coupled with a snippet from interviews, giving an unaffected glimpse into the lives of those around us.

“Everyone has different careers, goals, aspirations and stories, but at the same time, we’re all here, we’re all trying to learn. It’s just kind of a feel-good, community-building initiative,” said Cathy Chen, a first-year Computer Science student who curates the blog.

Chen, along with a team of students, all part of the Nspire Innovation Network, Canada’s largest student-run, non-profit organization, came up with the idea of launching Humans of Western. She noted once the idea was on the table, the team “ran with it.”

Humans of Western has been in the works since the beginning of the school year. Chen recruited three photographers over the holidays, launching the blog’s Tumblr page a few weeks ago. A Facebook page came soon after and its following is growing daily.

“We have a really great school community and a great school spirit already, but we wanted to tie the community a bit more. We profile people you may, or may not, know,” Chen explained, adding some of the faces on the blog are familiar to many, while others are students picked entirely at random by the blog’s photographers.

The blog’s analytics show the most popular post to date has been one of a female cafeteria staff member in Elgin Hall. The blog entry reads:

Originally from Portugal, she got her journalism degree in Toronto and a teaching degree at Western; she was also a varsity athlete in volleyball, hockey, and badminton.

“Say ‘Yes’ to life, that’s my motto”.

“When did you adopt the motto?”

“Couple years ago, when I realized I don’t say yes enough, and I’m missing out, mostly because of fear. The only thing fear stops is growth.”

“She’s a wonderful person and she brightens everyone’s day,” Chen said.

“It’s such a great story because everyone sees her all the time. You interact with her, but no one would ever take that moment to delve a bit deeper, and when you do, you find out really interesting things about a person.”

Below one portrait of a student is the following interview snippet:

“If there’s somebody you would like to show gratitude toward, who would that be?”

“It would be my mother and father, more than anyone. They separated about 5 or 6 years ago; it was a rough transition in my life. Regardless, they persevered and attempted to make all the priorities evident in my life, even though they were living separately. Everything that I do is for them; I want to make them proud.”

Chen added the names of those interviewed stay anonymous, as will the names of the photographers she has recruited. She doesn’t take any photos herself, she continued, and curates the blog alone. The blog publishes one profile a day, keeping a running queue.

“If people start recognizing all of us, they’ll start asking for photos and it will ruin the spontaneity of it,” she said.

“What they (the photographers) would generally do is approach someone who might look like they have a couple minutes to talk. They’d sit down and have a conversation with them, and then at the end, reveal about the blog,”

Chen continued.

“I hope it keeps growing. It would be nice to see a good portion of the campus involved.”


8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(holidays excluded)


Helen Connell

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Paul Mayne

Adela Talbot

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