Smile Politely

Humans of Champaign-Urbana

Humans of New York is a photo blog and bestselling book started in 2010 by Brandon Stanton. Brandon’s mission has been to capture pictures of people on the streets of New York City and briefly interview them. Then, paired with their picture, is a quote from Staton’s conversation with them. The result is an eclectic collection of individuals, each with their own story to tell.

Stanton’s project got me thinking. Sure, the Champaign-Urbana area isn’t nearly as large as New York City, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our fair share of interesting people walking around. So, I became determined to showcase the uniqueness of our area through the faces and stories of the strangers I encountered. I set off with nothing but a notebook, a camera, and the hopes that people wouldn’t be completely put off by some random college student asking them personal questions.

I headed to all corners of campus, from Cafe Paradiso to Gregory Hall, as well as to the streets of downtown Champaign. With butterflies in my stomach, I approached people that appeared to be partaking in something out of the ordinary. It was quite intimidating to approach people I didn’t know in the hopes they would respond kindly to my interview request. As for the interviewees, I can imagine that it caught some off guard to be interviewed out of the blue. However, soon after the ice was broken, the conversation was usually smooth sailing from there. Some people were able to open up to me about their views of the world and some people simply told me a random anecdote. Either way, I always left the conversation with a small piece of the person that they were gracious enough to share.

So, here are my new friends, our fellow Humans of Champaign-Urbana, who taught me that everyone has something to say that’s worth quoting.

“I’m a Type A brain trapped inside a Type B personality.”

“I won’t know if I’ve been a successful coach until I know my team has been successful outside of basketball. Basketball is just an avenue.”

“We like to knit amigurumi, which are Japanese stuffed animals.”

“I make my own costumes.”

“And what are those like?”

“If it looks like you dumped a laundry basket on yourself, you’re doing it right.”

“What’s your favorite part about volunteering here?”

“The people. They’re special people that aren’t happy to duck into Wal-Mart. The other fun thing is shopping here.”

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