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Wednesday, Sep 22, 2021

From the Big Apple to Bear territory: Freshman brings well known photography project to Mercer

Millions of followers. Thousands of portraits taken. Countless stories told. This is the legacy of Humans of New York, a project kick-started by photographer Brandon Stanton. Showcasing nearly 5,000 street portraits thus far, Stanton has captured the attention of readers worldwide who find themselves transfixed by the stories of everyday people.  Rising to wild popularity in the past several years, Humans of New York has undoubtedly connected people in a big way—and freshman Shruthi Vikraman intends to do the same.

Vikraman recently started working on her variant of the project, fittingly titled Humans of Mercer University. With her camera in tow and the goal of uniting campus-dwellers, Vikraman aims to capture the stories of Mercer students, saying that she was first inspired by Stanton to explore the lives of those around her.

“When I read Humans of New York posts, I tear up. It hits you … hard.  And it’s because you’re able to relate to strangers on the street,” said Vikraman. “I wanted that sort of unity here at Mercer.”

Having garnered the attention of roughly 500 people so far, the Humans of Mercer University Facebook page is already generating a buzz on campus. The page features photographs of Mercer students accompanied by quotations they have chosen to share with Vikraman. One recent portrait shows a foreign exchange student tying his soccer cleats, complemented by a short testimonial about a stereotype he faces. Another features a young woman revealing her regrets in life. Vikraman said that she finds it easy getting people to share their personal stories during the interview process.

“It’s actually not that hard to get people to open up to you. Once they tell you what they’ve been through, what their goals are in life … you find that you have similar interests,” said Vikraman. “We’re all the same kind of people, right?

Though her project revolves heavily around featuring portraits of students, Vikraman said she wouldn’t consider herself a photographer.

“I’m more like an artist, I guess, but I am really interested in photography.  It’s one of my biggest passions,” said Vikraman.  “I wanted to do something worthwhile with (my camera).  That’s what inspired me to do this.”

In fact, Vikraman insists that the mission of Humans of Mercer University expands far beyond the photographs she takes.  For Vikraman, storytelling is what truly matters.

“It’s not about the photography at all, really. It’s more about just getting the stories, making them public, and having people be aware of other people’s lives,” said Vikraman. “The only way to do that is by exposing these stories.”

As the year progresses, Vikraman said she anticipates facing some challenges in regards to her project. She worries Humans of Mercer University will become difficult to handle with her already stressful class schedule. Additionally, Vikraman said she is not authorized to use the official Mercer University logo and is currently undergoing the paperwork process to do so.  Still, Vikraman is optimistic that her project is one that will positively impact Mercer.

“I look forward to promoting this sort of empathetic love,” Vikraman said.


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