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: