BY MARY CLARE EDWARDS
Humans of Denison, an Instagram page started in Fall 2017, has students as the stars.
The page is inspired by the famous Instagram profile Humans of New York (@humansofny), which features the people of New York on the go, telling a piece of their story. Humans of Denison features students doing their studies, sports and more around campus, snapshotting their experiences. Each post is a different perspective on campus life and the backgrounds of the Denisonians.
Helen Nickerson, the photographer behind Humans of Denison, found her passion for photography in eighth grade. After suffering a concussion from horseback riding, photography became her main focus as she worked toward recovery. Her family’s love for travel allowed her to take photos around the world; she lived in Singapore in grade school and has been able to visit many other countries in Asia. Photography has also taken her to Barcelona, Spain, where she attended a workshop with National Geographic for several weeks, taking her far from her home in Portland, Oregon.
I found my appreciation for writing in my last years of high school. As I worked with my teachers and peers, I was often told that I had a different perspective to share. Although my teacher senior year was often generous with her red pen, the constant feedback was crucial in improving my writing, and I left with a desire to pursue English in college.
I first met Helen during our induction ceremony in Swasey Chapel. Little did I know we shared a mutual love for Humans of New York, or that she’d ask me to be a part of this project and eventually, be future roommates.
Helen lived in Beta House freshman year, and she recalls how, “Beta is home for twenty nine first year students, which allows students to get to know everyone in the house and form a close knit community. The page started with interviewing friends from the house and its grown into students from all over campus asking to be featured.”
As of now, sixteen students have been featured on Humans of Denison. Each post includes a photo Helen takes of them, the story they wish to share, their class year and their hometown. Helen arranges to meet the student anywhere on campus, so, “Sometimes they’re in action on the tennis court and other times they’re chilling underneath a tree in East Quad. It’s up to them.”
During sessions, Helen says, “Students often times have a vision for their photo and caption, picking the location and crafting their own story. Other times, it’s more of a collaborative effort; I find a spot on campus for the shoot, make note of the points they share and send them to Mary Clare.”
I take the facts Helen’s gives me from the interview, pull out the important details and turn it into a story. It has given me the opportunity to practice storytelling, which is important to me and applicable to my studies in English. Helen has found this project to be another way for her to meet more students.
Everyone has a story to tell. It’s a privilege to be a part of it; students get to keep the shots taken during the interview, and in return more people can learn about Helen’s work.
Helen and I hope to continue this project all four years on the hill. It has enabled us to do what we love weekly, while providing another outlet to get to know students we might have never run into otherwise.
Humans of Denison features students every Monday and Thursday. Check them out on Instagram @humans_of_denison.