Private, Student Life, Student of the Week

A look behind the lens: Humans of McGill photographer Brock Jenken

Brock Jenken, U2 Science, is a student of many disciplines. Between serving as the U2 representative for the Biochemistry Undergraduate Society, singing in an acapella group, and playing the piano—Jenken’s daily life is full of multitasking. He is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in computer science, and, amid dreams of medical school, he has honed a passion for photography.

Jenken is perhaps known best for his photography for Humans of McGill University (HoMU), a Facebook community featuring photos and interviews with students that has garnered over 5,000 likes since its debut in Fall 2016. Working as one of four page administrators, Jenken brings student voices to the forefront.

“What motivates me is to find people who have stories to share,” Jenken said. “I am mostly a portrait photographer, so I love talking to people and find that it helps in capturing better portraits. When I was given the opportunity [in 2015-2016] to join an initiative like [HoMU], I jumped at it. I like the concept of sharing stories from students your age […] who have such different lives.”

Jenken has been taking portraits on campus for about three years now, after getting his start with Humans of McGill Residences (HoMR), an initiative of the Inter Rez Council 2015-2016 that led to the creation of HoMU. During his time in university, he has developed a knack for getting his subjects to open up to him.

“I feel that I am getting more selective in the portraits,” Jenken said. “I approach people who are standing around or sitting on a bench, who probably just finished class [….] I ask if [they] have any experience that […] helped them grow, that others would be interested in hearing [about]. If they don’t seem comfortable sharing deep stories, I ask them if they have any dad jokes or funny, insightful quips.”

Jenken aspires to go to medical school but plans to work as a freelance wedding photographer over summer breaks to supplement his income. He seeks inspiration from other wedding photographers; his favourite is Brent Kallas, who happens to be a McGill alumnus himself.

“I was very recently photographed  by [Kallas],” Jenken said. “He always captures the perfect moment, especially in his wedding photography. As someone who wants to go into wedding photography, I want to be able to capture moments like he does.”

Reflecting on how working for HoMU has enriched his university experience,  Jenken feels more connected to people of different experiences and worldviews.

For me, [portrait photography] always reminds me that everyone is living their own lives,” Jenken said. “People can get caught up […] in their personal lives, but it reminds me that we all have different problems. We’re all going through things beyond control, and that it doesn’t hurt to be nice to someone [because] they might be having a rough day.”

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