Vicky Kasar might have been late to the game learning about the popular photoblog “Humans of New York,” but she has certainly made up for lost time.
Kasar discovered the blog last December. By January, she had made a slightly more local version: Humans of USC.
“I thought it’d be really fun and a great way to get in touch with people I had wanted to talk to and then also meet new people, just kind of put together all these people at ’SC that I found really inspiring,” Kasar said.
Since then, Kasar has made an effort to post a daily photo of someone around USC accompanied by a quote she got from speaking with them, the same format as “Humans of New York.” Her page now has more than 1,500 Facebook likes.
“You can tell when someone’s willing to talk to you or if they’re going to give you juice, or if they’re just going to be like, ‘mm-hmm,’” Kasar said of her methodology of selecting students to spotlight.
Kasar’s excitement about the project is palpable. She said the motivation behind her decision to start the blog was personal — she wanted to encourage herself to get out of her own patterns and habits.
“There’s so many worlds within USC that don’t really speak to one another … so everyone has such a different experience at this school,” Kasar said. “But I think you can be blind to what others are going through here.”
As well as photographing random people she finds, Kasar also spotlights people at large events. Recently she featured someone protesting outside of Bovard in support of SCALE’s protest, and a speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. She says the most popular posts, however, are the ones with quotes others can identify with.
“Things about beliefs or really exposing the truth about USC, like defying a stereotype or something that can ring true to everyone else, those tend to get a really good reaction,” Kasar said.
A few weeks ago, Kasar had the opportunity to meet Brandon Stanton, creator of the original “Humans of New York,” when he came to campus as part of USC’s first annual Arts Week. During the Q&A portion of the event, she asked Stanton his thoughts on spinoffs of his project, to which he responded positively. Kasar doesn’t exactly model how she runs her page off of Stanton, though.
“I went through the whole, ‘Oh, I’m going to methodically look at the questions Brandon asks and how he does it,’ but I just realized when I went out there and I tried to ask certain questions the conversations I was having were awkward,” she said. “I didn’t like it at all, so I totally just go out there and say whatever comes to mind.”
That’s not the only way she strays from Stanton. Though Stanton also uses a professional camera — one that can run upwards of $5,000 — Kasar takes all the photos on her iPhone. Though this is partly is for practical reasons, Kasar said she also made the conscious choice to use a phone rather than a camera.
“I started out just doing it on my iPhone because I didn’t want it to feel like a big thing, like someone was being formally interviewed because I wanted it to be natural,” she said.
This might not be how it’s done in the future, though. Kasar is graduating in just a few short weeks, leaving Humans of USC in the hands of others. One of these people is Sanford Reed, a sophomore majoring in theatre and critical studies. Reed hopes to improve the quality of pictures on the site.
“‘Humans of New York’ has a lot of very professional-type photos, and I want to use my camera to encompass that because I think the quality of the picture — in the end it’s about the quote, but the quality of the photo represents the quality of Humans of USC.”
Reed is one of six people currently collaborating with Kasar on Humans of USC. Come fall, only four will be left. Though exact positions have yet to be decided on, all four are already planning for next year.
“We’re really just looking to represent all different types of people in the USC community and just kind of make everyone feel more connected with other people,” said Sophia Ipsen, a sophomore majoring in international relations (global business). Ipsen said having multiple people take photos will help to diversify the number of people the group can reach. Reed also said he was excited to meet new people through the project.
“I love talking to people because they all have a different story,” he said. “We all come from different places, and we’ve gathered at one place: USC.”
Reed and Ipsen, however, each have their own priorities for the blog moving forward. While Reed wants to concentrate on the photography aspect of it, Ipsen wants to branch out to people around USC who aren’t students.
“I’d really like to see people who you wouldn’t expect to see … other actors at USC who people don’t always think about or see on the surface,” she said. “Kind of expose the more hidden secret gems of USC.”
In the end, however, both credit Kasar with the idea to start the page and the hard work she has put in this semester to make it a reality.
“This is all because of Vicky,” Reed said. “She is the root of this entire project, and I am so excited to be part of it. Vicky and I are very alike in that we look at people, and we don’t just see this other person walking around. Everyone has a different story, a different background.”