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UAlbany’s version of Humans of New York

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By Janie Frank

When University at Albany sophomore Clinton Olaniyi created the Students of UAlbany Facebook page last year, he hoped it would centralize the main idea behind Humans of New York (HONY).
HONY, started by Brandon Stranton in 2010, features photographed portraits of citizens in New York City. Often, the caption will be a quote from the person.
Olaniyi has been following HONY for more than three years.
“I wanted to recreate HONY in such a way where you as a student can make some kind of connection to the post even on the most basic level, as we are all students of UAlbany,” Olaniyi said.
Although the page started with just him, there are now six active members who contribute to posting photos.
A team of two people will go out together to get content for the page.
“Because two people go out and shoot together, we only go out when our schedules match up,” Olaniyi said. “So that could mean 10 plus photos one week, and only three another.”
Currently, the most popular picture on the site is of a male student smiling from April of this year. The caption explains that if he could have three wishes, he would wish to for the ability to talk to sea lions.
“You do know you can wish to talk to animals, right?” one of the Student of UAlbany members asked him.
“If you can talk to every animal, then you would have to understand what every stupid pigeon on the sidewalk is saying,” the student said.
When Olaniyi asks someone if he can take a picture of them, he is always prepared to explain why.
“I tell them, ‘What we do is walk around campus and randomly select students to interview, take their picture and then attach a quote or something interesting that they say.’”
He starts talking to the person using small talk but finds that people quickly start saying more.
“Everyone has a story and wants to tell it once they feel comfortable enough with you,” he said. “The first few minutes is me building a level of comfort and trust with the person.”
Olaniyi tries to read the person’s emotions and ask them questions about why they are feeling a certain way.
“The interview turns into a conversation,” he said. But no interview is the same. “Usually we don’t try to have programmed questions.”
He has to be prepared to ask more universal questions if he finds a person is not very conversational. Olaniyi’s go-to questions include “What do you like or hate about UAlbany?” and “Tell me something about yourself that no one else knows.”
The Students of UAlbany page currently has nearly 1,000 likes on Facebook. The first post was made on March 2. Since then, there have been more than 20 pictures posted.
Olaniyi said he finds joy in what he does for Students of UAlbany.
“I have learned that everyone wants to talk and tell their story but there aren’t enough listeners in this world,” he said. “To be able to be that ear that someone so desperately needs is an amazing feeling, especially when you don’t know the person.”

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