Humans of Lane Tech

By Alina Panek

Photographing and asking strangers for their secrets and actually receiving heartfelt stories sounds like a plot from a novel. Posting these secrets is the whole purpose of the Facebook group “Humans of Lane Tech.”

The Facebook page, started as an idea based on the globally-renowned Facebook page “Humans of New York,” or as the page’s fans call it, “HONY.” It is a catalogue of the people of New York, using vibrant pictures that tell stories along with a revealing quote that explains the person(s) in the picture.

 Munim Shah, Div. 565, is the creator of “Humans of Lane Tech.” Shah started photography two years ago in Darkroom Photography, a program in After School Matters. Darkroom Photography ended soon after he left, so Shah has been teaching himself until he learned new techniques in AP Photography.

“I was looking at HONY. The stories he got out of people were amazing,” Shah said. “There’s so many people at Lane, it’s basically a little city or a town. All these people have a story bottled up and we all want to share something. Everyone goes through something that everyone relates to.”

 Shah made “Humans of Lane Tech” on October 19, and before he even posted his first photo, he had over 500 likes.

“It’s phenomenal, the interest of the Lane kids to themselves,” Shah said. “It really shows the community we have.”

In the beginning, Shah posted a lot of his friends on the page, because they already have a comfortable relationship with each other. Shah watched HONY videos to learn how to talk to strangers. He learned that he needed an introduction, a quick run-through of what he is doing, why he is taking his/her photo and who he is.

“When I interview strangers, I look for people that are alone,” Shah said. “I do my introduction and if they say, ‘No,’ I just say, ‘Thank you for your time’ and walk away. If they say yes, I have them promise to tell the truth. The first person I asked shut me down right away.”

The second person Shah interviewed was a girl alone by her locker after school. Shah did his introduction and she agreed to answer his questions. The girl at first seemed closed off but after Shah pushed a little, she ended up telling him a story he did not expect.

“Just by looking at her, she’s just a sweet innocent little girl,” Shah said. “But talking to her, and just the way she told me about how much she’s going through. Wow. I was just writing it all down. But at the end she told me, ‘I don’t want you to post this.’ It really bummed me out, but I could understand why. Now whenever I see her in the halls, I say, ‘Hi.’”

This experience gave Shah a positive attitude and encouraged him to seek out more stories. Shah asked a teacher, Mr. DeLisle, and it was the most honest interview that he had done. Shah found that if he does not have a filter for his questions, the interviewee will not have a filter for his/her answer.

About a month after the Facebook page’s creation, “Humans of Lane Tech” has over 1,000 likes. Shah posts several times a week, and he feels a lot of pressure. Fans will message him, asking when the next photo is going to be posted. But Shah takes it in stride and realizes that if they are asking for more, it is a positive sign and he is doing something right.

Posting frequently is sometimes a challenge for Shah, especially with finals and midterms. He plans ahead for these stressful times by setting a goal of interviewing two to three people per day and preparing photographs for posting when he needs them.

“I’m considering adding someone [a collaborator], but it’s not at the point to share with someone else yet,” Shah said. “It’s a huge learning curve.” 

Shah’s goal for “Humans of Lane Tech” is to have 2,500 likes by next summer. Even though Shah is not comfortable yet with sharing the page, he wants to give “Humans of Lane Tech” to someone who will help the page succeed when he graduates.

“’Humans of Lane Tech’ is journalism, photography, and storytelling, all at the same time,” Shah said.