People of Blono: 3 Photographers inspired by the highly philanthropic project “Humans of New York” set out to create inspiration to better the community around them
“Our aim is to reach into our community in a positive and heartfelt way that brings our community and campus closer together. We are not looking to make a profit, & we have no monetary goal, but if you feel so inclined to help those individuals that may appear on our page we ask that you use that inspiration to better the community around you. Whether that be through donation to a non-profit, volunteer work, a pay it forward act, or a simple smile at a passing stranger everything helps to make a better community.”
- Paige Meisenheimer-
"People of Blono," is a photojournalistic "story telling" project started in Bloomington-Normal Illinois that has quickly gained a lot of interest and created what we can only hope is a bit of a reflection of a humanitarian and philanthropic sentiment in the area. Tracy Conobo is 1 of the three creatives who make up the team at "People of Blono." In a recent interview, Tracy gives insight into the creative process and energy behind the project.
This seems is such a cool project, I caught a glimpse, and it instantly touched my heart. What inspired the idea?
There have been a lot of similar projects to come up around the world and collegiate communities inspired by Humans of New York. We started ours up inspired by that project as well.
Who are the creators and photographers of the project and what should we know about them and their art?
The three creators and photographers are Tracy Conoboy, Jenna Kadziulus, and Paige Meisenheimer. The three of us met working at Illinois State University’s newspaper The Vidette. Jenna and I are photographers and Paige is a photo editor. We all have our own passions when it comes to photography, but I think what really connected the three of us to this project is our photojournalism backgrounds and the desire to tell a story.
How have people responded to the project?
For the most part, people have been super interested in what we’re doing. We’ve received kindhearted messages on Facebook and generally, people have been super excited to be a part of it. We only received one negative comment from someone that thought we were copying the “Humans of Illinois State” Facebook page, which has a focus specifically on the Illinois State community. However, we were not upset about that comment because we know all of these projects are inspired by the original “Humans of New York” project. We just want to reach out to the community as a whole.
The captions seem to be more than the “story” of that person. They are brief and deliberate, striking right to the core emotion and humanity of that person. Are most people willing to be so candid?
I think it helps a lot that “Humans of New York” is so popular. When talking to strangers, its helpful for them to have a reference and understand what kind of project this is. Not everyone is willing to be so candid but I think its all about how you approach someone with an open mind and an open heart.
How would you decide who to photograph, and what is your interaction with them like?
Some of the people we’ve photographed have been friends or friends of friends. Otherwise, it’ll be a random person on the street, typically someone that is alone and does not seem to be in a rush. The interaction is really different depending on the situation. I think it’s helpful to explain the project and reference “Humans of New York.” Typically, I’ve taken the photo first and then had the conversation with the person.
How has the experience of this project helped you learn & grow?
I can only speak for myself that this experience has helped me become more confident with talking to strangers. It’s definitely a true test of confidence to start a conversation with someone and delve into their personal stories within minutes. There is not a single person you pass by on the street that does not have a story to tell and I think that’s really special and important to remember.
You could be doing any photography project, photographing anything, why did you choose to take this particular project on?
The three of us are already photojournalists and we wanted to dig deeper into portraiture and true storytelling. Paige put it nicely in a post saying, “Our aim is to reach into our community in a positive and heartfelt way that brings our community and campus closer together. We are not looking to make a profit, & we have no monetary goal, but if you feel so inclined to help those individuals that may appear on our page we ask that you use that inspiration to better the community around you. Whether that be through donation to a non-profit, volunteer work, a pay it forward act, or a simple smile at a passing stranger everything helps to make a better community.”
What is in the future for the “People of Blono”, should we expect to see more photos?
We hope to post a new photograph at least once every day!
What is the best way people can support the project or be involved in People of Blono?
We’ve had people reach out to us through our Facebook page asking to tell their story and we definitely welcome that.
Visit People of Blono here:
Unofficial: Pay It Forward Creator Sets out to inspire others
“Every day, you have a choice. You wake up and you can either use that day to make other’s lives better or worse. I choose to do what I can to try and make it better."
Unofficial: Pay it forward
Inspired by a book as a young college student and later by a community that came together in kindness, one young woman seeks to better the world, one act at a time.
As a young college student, Michelle Snook had been given a book by a friend called Pay It Forward.
It is a 1999 Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde in which a boy who believed in the goodness of human nature set out to change the world. The message resonated with her and , while dealing with the trials of being new to college life, and adjusting to the new found separation and distance that came between her, her twin sister, and her newly divorced parents. “The book was about a young boy who was given an assignment to perform a random act of kindness to three people, and ask those who he helped to help 3 more, so that a single act can grow and grow. I was inspired by the idea that no matter how alone we may feel at times, we are all truly, deeply connected, and that we can all make a difference in the lives of others.”
Years later, Michelle had moved on to live in central Illinois as a professional photographer, still carrying with her the impact of the book. In early April of 2014, this community was deeply moved at the death of a young local high school student, Michael Collins. Authorities said he had passed as the result of injuries suffered in a car accident caused by a person charged with aggravated DUI. His friends started a movement of “paying it forward” in his honor. Michael had been an organ donor and known as a kind person. Michelle was just one of the thousands of people who participated in the movement and the Facebook page his friend had created.
Over a year later, Michelle and others were still continuing to “pay it forward”. She found herself sitting in a diner on-looking as a burdened traveler scribbled away in a notebook. Sensing intuitively that something was wrong, she decided it was an opportunity to make a difference. As she attempted to discreetly pay for his bill, another patron noticed what she was doing and explained that she had just witnessed another person pay for a strangers groceries merely days before, and how great it was to see so much good happening in the world. This was when Michelle realized that by bringing light to the acts of kindness, others could be lifted up just by hearing about the good in the world, if not inspired to do the same.
She was inspired to create the “Unofficial: Pay It Forward” Facebook page. Michelle said of the page. “While many random acts of kindness are still going on today, we aren’t hearing about them as much. I wanted to create a forum where people could continue sharing in these moments and acts together. This is a place where people are able to post their own experiences, read others feel good & be inspired to live a little more meaningfully each day.”
Want to share your experience or be inspired by other stories?
You can visit and join the Unofficial: Pay it Forward movement at
There is now a 5K in honor of Michael Collins (#MCSTRONG) You can register here https://register.itsracetime.com/Register/?event=35671
or here http://mcstrong.org/
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We all have our insecurities, and so often those insecurities transform into jealousy. Jealousy is a sickness. It makes us uncomfortable, detracts from our self-worth, judges others, separates us from people we admire, and blocks us from what we want to have. Jealousy is not an unpreventable emotion, it is a bad habit, and fortunately one we can change. Jealousy can be cured and completely out of your system using these 5 simple steps.
1. Be Fair to Others
It is easy to see someone with something we want in our own lives, and be upset that we don’t have it and they do. Whether it is on social media or in our daily life, we see someone with nice shoes, a good relationship, an awesome personality, or whatever it might be and our mind, and habit of choosing to react with jealousy, distorts reality. It is important to be fair with others if you want to end the habit of envy.
We don’t know everything about that person, and in truth we probably don’t know much about them or their life at all. We don’t know what they had to go through, experience, learn, or lose to get what they have. Even if it seems like something nature gave them, like beautiful eyes, we don’t know what all lies behind them.
2. Stop Deciding Who Deserves What
Often, when we have a habit of letting jealousy control our minds, we immediately respond by creating reasons why people don’t deserve what they have. We create a list of reasons why they don’t deserve to have what we want. We often sight mistakes they have made, short-comings they have, or that they already have too much “good”.
If you want to be happy, you must step down from the “Who-Deserves-What” police force. Yes, sometimes life has the illusion of unfairness. We see people with success doing “bad-things”, we see “good” people get less than we perceive they deserve. However, it is not any of our jobs to decide who qualifies as deserving, and if you are not getting paid for this job, I wouldn’t recommend volunteering because it will only make you unhappy.
3. Remember the Grass is Always Greener
When you are staring at your neighbor’s immaculate lawn, take notice of the neighbor on the other side staring at yours. To end feelings of jealousy, it is important to remember that there is surely someone who admires what you have. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “…Remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” If you think that you haven’t had any advantages in life, your perception needs a complete reworking. Even hard times, challenges, and pain can be perceived as advantages that taught you something or forced growth. Surely, there is something “good” in your life that someone else would feel lucky to have. Take an inventory of your own blessings, even the ones in disguise.
4. Create Your Own Luck
Do you want to be one of “the lucky ones”? One of my friends seemed to always be winning prizes. He playfully told me that he was born lucky, and listed numerous things he had won. I was mystified, and confessed that I had literally never won a prize. He confided in me saying that in actuality most people don’t ever enter contests and he had a habit of doing so, to the point that if the rules allowed, he would enter the same contest as many times as possible. We often don’t see the effort and work someone puts into their own luck, we only see the results. If there is something you see that you want, tip the scales in your own favor, and do the work it will take to increase your chances of success.
5, Seek Friends Not Competition
You can instantly and completely extinguish the burn of jealousy by viewing people as friends to learn from instead of competition. When you do this, you instantly put yourself on the same playing field, and not competing against the best, but joining the winning team.
Anytime you see someone that has any quality you wish you had, you should try to learn from them. Jealousy separates us from people we want to be like, and from everything we want to have. If you find something admirable, tell them! Everyone loves a sincere complement and most people like to talk about themselves. You become like the people you spend the most time with, so spend time with the people you admire. If you earn a friend, they will be happy to show you how to get what they have.