Jeremy Berkowitz came to Rutgers in 2013 undecided. Discovering a knack for communicating with strangers, paired with a passion for photography and admiration for the Humans of New York page, the Rutgers freshman began a project of his own: Humans of Rutgers. A collection of images and stories from students, faculty and staff, and New Brunswick residents, the project now boasts almost 10,000 followers on Facebook and more than 2,500 followers on Instagram.
Berkowitz’s project is now a staple in the Rutgers community. The page has become more than sharing people’s story – it’s an important part of Berkowitz’s identity. The photojournalist says while there are times when he goes around campus to approach subjects on the go, the project also allows room for planned interviews from subjects that follow the page and have expressed interest in sharing their story.
“It’s been the only constant my whole Rutgers experience,” said the senior. “It’s helped me grow as a photographer and I’ve learned I’m comfortable talking to people…being Humans of Rutgers has made me more of a conversationalist and made me more approachable and more comfortable approaching people.” Many students know the page, but a majority of them don’t know the face behind it. This allows each introduction and approach to be new, unique and organic. He became something of a super hero with a secret identity.
“My post on [Rutgers journalism professor] Steven Miller reached just under 100,000 people,” said Berkowitz. “This was the fist time I really felt like the project was getting recognized. It was great to speak with someone so integral to the Rutgers community, and especially to the journalism community at RU.”
While a majority of the page centers on the New Brunswick campus, he also interviewed Rutgers students interning in New York this past summer. His extension of the program in New York not only added more diverse, fresh content, but also expanded the concept of the project to outside the limits of a college town.
“I had so much fun doing it and shared so many stories,” he says. “I think if it changed a bit I would be disappointed, but it wouldn’t be in my hands anymore and I feel proud of the content I’ve produced while here.”
Berkowitz has already begun training students from the school newspaper, The Daily Targum, to follow in his footsteps. “So far I’ve taken a couple of students around campus and it’s been cool to show them what I do and how I do it. I’m definitely still working towards passing it off for good,” sad Berkowitz.
While Berkowitz isn’t going to continue his involvement in the project after graduation, he reflects back on it as a major part of his college education. “It wasn’t technically a project for school, but it was a Rutgers project for me because it shaped my career path and passions so strongly,” he said, adding that he’s eager to work on similar projects in the future. “I’m most interested in working with people, taking portraits, and sharing people’s stories about their lives, cultures, or hardships.”