‘Humans of MIT’ Takes a Page from the Popular New York Photography Project

This is what it's like to be a student at the school.

Photo by Margaret Burdge

Photo by Margaret Burdge

It’s usually the case that innovators from MIT inspire others to create something great. But in the instance of a particular photography project drumming up attention on Facebook, the students at the Cambridge institution are taking a cue from the outside world.

MIT now has it’s very own “Humans of MIT” page, a knock-off of the wildly popular “Humans of New York,” a photo project that features portraits of unsuspecting pedestrians and tells their personal stories through quick biographies attached to the photos.

Inspired by Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the original New York project of a similar name, the creators of the MIT Facebook page travel the campus hitting up dorm rooms, labs, and public spaces outside of the school, asking students what inspires them and where they hope to find themselves once they graduate. While some students were timid in their responses, others offered a unique look at the struggles of attending a cutting-edge and competitive university.

On MIT’s page, one student stopped by the cameraperson was asked about her aspirations going forward, and how she ended up at MIT. Kiran Wattamwar said she wanted to end up at Pixar one day. “When I was little, I’d start learning video editing, and different graphic things…and now, here I’m doing computer graphics things,” Wattamwar said in a statement accompanying her candid photo.

David Huang, another student caught on camera, got brutally honest about what life for some MIT students can be like, noting that it’s not always a walk in the park—even for some of the smartest people in the area:

It’s a very human place. Human: as in, you’re going to experience a lot of emotions and different phases at MIT in four years. Especially failing things. Failing is a big part of life, to be honest, and MIT makes sure that you feel intensely in every aspect possible. MIT makes social life hard, even. It makes everything hard here, and it mentally prepares you. Life after this… life is not all glorious and happy and pigeons and sparrows flying. This place makes you cry half the time, and ‘why the hell did I pick this place’. But then again, you did. So it teaches you a lot.”

The page was created on February 17, and already it’s approaching 1,000 likes. It serves as a window into the lives of students that the outside world may not know very much about beyond their technological inventions and creative “hacks” on campus. With enough luck, interest in the Facebook profiles could launch the people behind the campus-wide project into the zone of popularity that Boston’s own “Portraits of Boston,” a project started by photographer Ivan Velinov, has enjoyed.

Similarly inspired by Stanton, more than 100,000 people flock to the Portraits of Boston Facebook page to view and share photos of strangers and read the heartfelt stories about the people who walk the streets of the city, whether they be homeless or living in plush Back Bay buildings.