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"Humans of New York" meets downtown Phoenix in new blog

A Barrett student is using her honors contract to tell the stories of downtown students.

Journalism sophomore Katie Malles poses for a portrait in front of Taylor Place on the Downtown campus on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Taylor Place is home to many of the subjects featured in her portrait project 'Students of Downtown.'
Journalism sophomore Katie Malles poses for a portrait in front of Taylor Place on the Downtown campus on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Taylor Place is home to many of the subjects featured in her portrait project 'Students of Downtown.'

While Brandon Stanton gives the world a glimpse into people's lives through his blog, Humans of New York,” journalism sophomore Katie Malles is capturing the photos and stories of the eclectic group of students surrounding her.

As a Barrett, the Honors College student, ASU requires Malles to earn a certain number of honors credits. Killing two birds with one stone, she decided to do her own version of the vibrant blog, Students of Downtown,” while meeting the requirements of an honors enrichment contract.

“I wanted to showcase just how amazing ASU’s Downtown students are,” Malles said. “It was a great way to earn honors credit and a great way to meet a lot of residents. I love talking to people and learning their stories and just having a good conversation.”

An avid reader of “Humans of New York,” Malles commented on how strangers completely open up about their lives to Stanton and how students of downtown have done the same toward her.

“I’ve had a lot of people just open up to me about things that are stressing them out in their life or hardships they are going through," she said. "In a regular conversation with a friend, you’re not asking them about their greatest weakness. My vision was that people would see their friends on the blog and think ‘that’s awesome, I didn’t know that about you.’”

With the goal to capture three stories a week, she seeks out students to feature, many of which reach out to her first with the offer to help. A meeting with Malles follows Stanton’s interview style.

“I’m taking inspiration from the way he photographs people and the expression he gets on their faces and the emotion that he captures. I’m learning to improve on that. Basically when I go and interview someone, I’m having a conversation with them and then I’ll ask a thought provoking question.”

Through this method, Malles recalled a few interviews that struck her.

“One of my best friends, Chase Hansen, gave an answer to the question 'What is the difference between falling in love and being in love?' I knew I wanted to throw that question on a guy and he gave such a beautiful answer and it just really surprised me,” Malles said.

Recently featured on the blog, journalism sophomore Libby Allnat shared her experience.

“She asked, ’What is your biggest dream?” I thought, ‘Oh man, I have to try and make this deep,’” Allnat said. “I tried to get out everything I wanted to say because I knew this would be one photo and one quote. I wanted what I said to define who I was. “

While “Students of Downtown” only covers one campus, Malles plans to extend to the rest of ASU once the blog gathers more followers. However, public policy sophomore Jimmy Arwood feels the close knit community is a good place to start.

“1,300 students are packed into two buildings right directly next to each other,” Arwood said. “I think ‘Students of Downtown’ paints those stories within the walls of these buildings. There are so many stories within them and there are so many people with so many unique abilities inside of them that their stories need to be told.”

Even though her honors contract ends at the semester, Malles said she plans to continue her blog and hopes to interview professors and staff members at the ASU Downtown campus in the future.

Editor's note: Katie Malles is a former State Press photographer. She was not involved in the reporting, writing or editing of this story.

Related Links:

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