Walking along Spring Street or Chapin Lawn, Grace Fan ’19 stops strangers and asks a simple question: Could I take your picture?
At the beginning of the semester, Fan took over the popular Humans of Williams Facebook page, modeled after Brandon Stanton’s famous Humans of New York page. “During First Days, I emailed Susie [Paul ’16], who started Humans of Williams, and asked her if she needed any help with the page,” Fan explained. “She responded saying I could take it over.”
Fan developed an interest in the Humans of New York concept when she created her own page, Faces of Falmouth High School, for an independent project in high school. “I decided I wanted to do something that would benefit both myself and the community,” Fan said of her initial interest in the concept. “I also love talking to strangers and hearing their stories.”
Having inherited the page, Fan hopes to move in a slightly different direction. “[Paul] focused on somewhat controversial topics, which I completely respect, but it detracted from making the page a community,” Fan said. “I simply want to connect people, share stories and help build community.”
Fan described her interview process as simple and efficient. “I usually just go up to people and ask to interview them,” she said. “I try to keep it as spontaneous as possible. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.”
Having developed an interest in photography during her first year of high school, Fan wishes she had started working on the art form even earlier. “My dad tried to convince me to do photography when I was young, but I thought it was for old people,” Fan said. “I wanted to be cool and fit in. But when I joined Instagram, I was exposed to high-quality, interesting images.”
Fan radiates a love for and belief in the art of photography. “I like to take photographs because they capture memories and moments that you wouldn’t normally be able to take with you,” she said. “Being a sentimental person by nature, I like to be able to look back at my photos and remember a good time or see people whom I love or places that mean a lot to me.”
And although Fan expressed an interest in street photography – unstaged photos of people going about their business – she plans to stay focused in the near future on human portraits as a means of storytelling. “I think it’s so important to share stories and formulate connections by any means, whether it be music, theater or storytelling,” she said. “Human beings are social animals – we desire relationships. Photography is just one method of linking people together, and it happens to be something that I’m passionate about.”
Fan holds herself to a high standard on the Humans of Williams page. In describing the power of an individual photograph, Fan said, “A good photograph evokes some sort of emotion from the viewer – whether it be sadness, joy, grief or surprise. Photos have the ability to connect the world even if you’re on opposite sides of the Earth.”
Looking towards her future in photography, Fan hopes to explore the courses available to her at the College. “I really want to take the photojournalism class,” she added. “I think photojournalism is one of the best uses of photography because you get to relay information, stories and experience through photos.” It sounds like a natural extension of what Fan is already doing, helping to unite community members through photography over her first few months at the College.