Humans of Manhasset

Brendan Conniff

  On March 10th, families, teachers, and administrators gathered at the Manhasset Gallery of Fine Art to celebrate the work of a select group of 10th grade English students in the exhibit “Humans of Manhasset.”  

         Spearheaded by their English teachers, Ms. Eileen Madigan, Mr. Mark Breckles, and Mr. Michael McDonough, the “Humans of Manhasset” project challenged students to explore the human condition by interviewing friends, family and strangers about their life experiences.  Students were able to choose a theme: visibility vs. invisibility; outsider vs. insider; powerful vs. powerless. The photos of their subjects, along with their quotes, are displayed in the gallery. 

         This project is similar to Brandon Stanton’s vastly popular social media account Humans of New York that he started in 2010 to catalog New York City’s inhabitants.  Stanton photographed New Yorkers, plotted their photos on a map and attached quotes and short stories alongside the photos. According to Stanton, his Humans of New York blog, now with over 20 million followers, “provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.” 

         Similar to Stanton’s blog, the “Humans of Manhasset” project is about the art of listening and learning about the larger world we live in.  As Mr. Breckles explained, “By interviewing different people of all ages and all backgrounds, hopefully students gained an insight and learned some valuable life lessons.”  He continued, “Personally, I hope they learned that every single person on this planet has a story.”

         When Landon Kissell, one of the 10th grade students whose project is displayed in the gallery, was asked what he learned from doing this project, he said, The most important thing I learned was that peoples own individual experiences affect the way they view each individual situation. Landon hoped that people viewing his project would become more sensitive to others.

         To sum up the importance of this project, Mr. Breckles deferred to his colleague, Mr. McDonough, who said: “In the age of the selfie when everyone is busy maintaining their own image, it’s important to put the spotlight on others.” 

         The “Humans of Manhasset” exhibit will be showcased in the Gallery from March 5-20.