Instagram account showcases campus diversity

The account tells students’ stories in a “Humans of New York” style.

Freshman journalism major Jeremy Elvas (right) interviews sophomore engineering technology major Alique Douglas (left) at Founder's Garden on Wednesday. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Every day students on campus buy lunch at The Wall, lounge in Founder’s Garden and socialize at the Bell Tower. But Jeremy Elvas wanted to know more about them.

At the beginning of the school year, the freshman journalism major remembered a photography project he did in high school that was based off photographer Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” enterprise. Stanton photographs and interviews ordinary people on the streets of New York City to share their often-emotional stories. 

“Doing that project in my high school really allowed me to understand people of different skin colors, different sexual orientations, different genders,” Elvas said. “Since Temple has a really diverse student body, I thought, ‘Why not continue it here?’” 

Elvas launched “Owls of Temple University,” an Instagram page where he shares photos of Temple students with quotations from them. 

“I just started going up to random strangers that I see,” he said. “I get scared at first, but then what I learned is you just have to go up to them, smile, introduce yourself and explain what the project is.”

He usually approaches people sitting by themselves who don’t look too busy. People have generally been receptive to the project, and no one has rejected an interview yet, Elvas said. 

Elvas interviewed freshman architecture major Parker Goldberg last month. Goldberg, who attended Cheltenham High School in Montgomery County with Elvas, reached out to be featured on the page because they were glad Elvas brought the project with him to college. 

Goldberg said the project shows the diversity of Temple’s campus and how anyone walking down the street can be an interesting person. 

“The photography is just incredible to me, how he can form a photo with just one person and really tell their story,” Goldberg added. 

Other students have made spin-offs of Stanton’s project in the past. In 2014, a student created a “Humans of Temple University” Facebook page featuring professors, students and former football coach Matt Rhule. It hasn’t been active since March 2017.

Sophomore film and media arts major Alo Barrantes said the attention he received from being featured in Elvas’ project connected him with people who saw the post.

“I look for connections because I’m a film major,” he said. “I’ve had people follow me on Instagram and ask me about what I do because of this.” 

Jenna Lam, a senior film and media arts major, said “Owls of Temple University” creates a sense of community on Main Campus.

“We get so caught up in our own schedules and our own departments, we don’t really branch out,” Lam said. “But with something like ‘Owls of Temple,’ it allows us to see people who are a different year, different major, different experience and just really see the humanity of it all, versus seeing the same people we see every day.”

Elvas hopes the page will continue to grow and bring students closer together. He said it’s easy to meet different kinds of people on Main Campus, where students come from other countries to convene in one of the most diverse cities on the East Coast.

“I just want to capture that and showcase how special the students who go to Temple are,” Elvas added.

Editor’s note: Jeremy Elvas is a freelance photographer for The Temple News. He had no role in the reporting or editing of this story. 

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