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Campus in focus: Syracuse University alumnus captures campus environment through photos of its inhabitants

/ The Daily Orange

Freshman public relations major Melissa Martinez was walking out of class when a man with a camera stopped her and asked if he could take her picture.

He said he liked her scarf.

As it turns out, the picture he was taking was for a Facebook page the man runs called “Humans of Syracuse University.”

“I saw the Humans of New York page and I just loved the idea,” said Ousman Diallo, creator of the Syracuse page who graduated with a degree in information management and technology in December 2012. “I had the immediate inclination to bring it to the university setting.”

Diallo is an aspiring writer, performer of spoken word and photographer. He created the page Nov. 27. As of today, the page has more than 2,200 fans.

It is a page modeled after the ever-present Humans of New York, a project in which a photographer tries to depict the flavor, culture and sheer humanity of his respective community through pictures of its people.

Diallo’s love for photography was reinforced last summer while he was abroad in Florence, Italy. He studied under photographer Andrea Calabresi, who uses a specific technique with medium format cameras.

Post graduation, Diallo yearns to learn more, which is why he is taking asix-month sabbatical to live in the Tuscany, Italy area.

“I booked a ticket, had a revelation and I told myself, ‘I’m going to Italy to study more photography,’” he said.

He will be staying with Calabresi during his “uninterrupted time of studying the art, the craft and the history of photography.”

Diallo left Monday and will return June 30. He hopes to continue his education in the master’s photography program.

While planning ahead for his time abroad, Diallo recruited three photographers to run the page for him. He is just as excited to see what Chris Becker, Shelby Jacobs and Colin Liang come up with while he is away as the trio is to show Diallo what they’ve got.

Becker met Diallo by chance in the School of Information Studies last semester. The senior information technology and management major approached Diallo on a hunch because Diallo had his camera with him, and Becker had seen the HOSU page on Facebook.

After Becker expressed admiration for the project, he asked Diallo if he would accept student submissions. A few of Becker’s photographs are now featured on the page.

Becker was taken aback when Diallo asked him to help run the page while he was overseas – he had only sent him two pictures.

In an effort to add his own style to the page, Becker hopes to feature pictures of people inside some of the university buildings, thus capturing the heart of students in their natural environments.

Whether a photo is of someone working in a lab in the Life Sciences Complex, or getting a shot of students during a studio portrait shoot in S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Becker said he wants to show off the academic talent SU has.

“A lot about Syracuse, after all, is the university,” he said.

Becker likes that the page showcases the diversity of the SU community, for every college town is different.

“When you look at the people that go here, we’re really different, unique, weird and cool,” he said.

Becker feels that people such as alumni or administrators will relate to campus pictures more if they see familiar spots.

“People relate to (pictures) the best when people feel like they’re there,” he said.

Becker has always loved photography, but it was never more than a hobby. He started getting serious about it this year after spending time in London last fall. His professor abroad thought very highly of Becker’s work, but pointed out that he only had pictures of scenes and objects — not people.

He is looking forward to learning to get over the awkwardness of talking to strangers.

“As much as it’s the artistic stuff, it’s about me and my skills,” Becker said.

Becker hopes to return next year as a graduate student in the information management program.

Martinez, the girl with the nice scarf, thinks the page is cool.

“It’s interesting to see things that you wouldn’t have thought (you’d see) on campus,” she said.

Martinez thinks the page has potential to gain a lot of followers.

As for Diallo, he is pleased about the page’s growth thus far, and is excited to see where and how it will continue to flourish. He feels that the page serves as a platform to let people connect with each other on things that bring the community together.

He is trying to highlight the greatness in people.

Often, alumni write to Diallo and say he gives him them great memories of the place where they once spent so much of their time. Diallo said the page reminds everyone that SU is a community, connecting all of its people in some way.

Diallo’s positivity and optimism radiate from him. He said his friends have asked him why he is so happy about the world all the time.

“I believe my friends believe in me,” Diallo said. “I’m happier than most people I know, and I’m gonna keep on.”

His overall goal for the project is to grab enough momentum to bring it to other universities. Ideally, he said he would like to see the movement go global.

“We hear ‘Follow your passion, as long as your passion makes you a lot of money,’” Diallo said. “This is the time that we’re coming into ourselves. We’re coming into the people that we’re going to be for the next 30 or 40 years. I just don’t want to be a person complacent with my life. This is how I plan on starting to do it.”

Video by Katrina Bartocillo and Max Darrow

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