Spotlight on Student Work: Dave Morrow’s “Humans of Findlay”

Photographer and CDS continuing education student Dave Morrow

Photographer and CDS continuing education student Dave Morrow

When David Morrow started taking classes through the Continuing Education program at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) in Spring 2015, his ambitious multimedia project, Humans of Findlay, was already well underway. It has since been published as a book (so far just “Volume I”), and online as an ever-growing website. Inspired by photographer Brandon Stanton’s blog and bestselling book Humans of New York, Humans of Findlay started in April 2014 as a way for Morrow to find a new hobby and meet his neighbors. But it’s turned into something much bigger.

Morrow is a California native who lived in Missouri and Utah before ending up in Findlay, Ohio when his wife found a job there.  “I was there for ten years, and knew nobody,” Morrow says. While watching TV one day, he saw a mention of Humans of New York. Doing the same for Findlay, he realized, would be a way to “stay out of trouble and keep busy.” It would also be a creative outlet for his longstanding interest in photography.

He started in April of 2014 with a profile of a fellow teacher he’d met while substitute teaching. He took a picture, wrote a story, and put it up on Facebook. “In 24 hours I had 10,000 visits,” he says. “We did a few more stories, and people started asking, ‘Who are you? Why are you doing this?’ So I identified myself and there was no more anonymity. But then nominations started coming in.”

Morrow began interviewing and photographing four or five people a week, and in a few weeks’ time, the project had built up a large following. “The community had started owning it,” says Morrow.

The Facebook page grew into a vast record of Findlayites that gets 10,000–15,000 visits per day. A few months into the project, Morrow decided to look into publishing a book, as Stanton had done with Humans of New York. He looked online for resources and discovered CDS. To workshop his project and get advice on publishing, he enrolled in the Continuing Education certificate program. He attended the DocuArts Retreat in February 2015, and the Intensive Introduction to Documentary Studies in June.

“I was told, ‘Stop collecting’—I had enough stuff,” he says. He returned to Ohio and, with the help of Sarah Sisser, director of the Hancock Historical Museum in Findlay, put together a production team. Humans of Findlay, Vol. I, with a foreword by the mayor, was published in November.

A selection of images featured in Dave Morrow's "Humans of Findlay"

A selection of images featured in Dave Morrow’s “Humans of Findlay”

In early 2016, the project took on yet another manifestation, as a freestanding website. With an engaging, clean-looking interface, it’s a visually appealing showcase for Morrow’s black-and-white photography.

Morrow has continued to take on-site and online classes at CDS to hone his technique, including Interviewing for Story, taught by Christina Cooke, and Documenting the Personal, a photography class taught by Sarah Stacke. Two online video courses taught by Randy Benson gave him the tools to embark on a video documentary about one family’s experiences with cancer.

“I’m excited about finishing up the certificate [CDS’s Certificate in Documentary Arts], but I don’t want to quit!” Morrow says. As the project continues to grow and change, it brings new opportunities for Morrow to connect with his neighbors, as subjects and as collaborators. The University of Findlay has contributed video production to Humans of Findlay, turning several of Morrow’s interviews into documentary shorts on YouTube. “It’s opened doors like I’ve never seen before,” says Morrow.

“I have seen how connected we really are. It’s changed how I look at things. I feel comfortable in my community now. I feel part of it, which I didn’t before.”

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    2 Responses to “Spotlight on Student Work: Dave Morrow’s “Humans of Findlay””

    1. Dave Morrow has done a fantastic job of highlighting individuals in our lovely community and his work will live on for years to come!

      This article is a nice spotlight on Dave, the man behind the documentary.

      Kindest Regards,
      Leslie Farison

      Forte Matchmaking

    2. Spencer Cunningham says:

      Great article!! See you in a week or so,

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