Q&A: In Times of Isolation, PR Grad’s Photo Journal Connects Strangers

With a passion for social media, Hannah Kaplan launched a public photo journal on Instagram aimed at amplifying the new purpose and meaning we’re all discovering during this forced pause.

By Xaviea Brown
Hannah Kaplan
Hannah Kaplan

When the pandemic is over, how will we look back on this quarantine time and the ways we connected across social distancing?

When it was decided that students would not return to campus after spring break because of the COVID-19 pandemic, without knowing how long it would last, recent graduate and peer mentor Hannah Kaplan looked for ways to serve a community. 

The Public Relations major who has a passion for social media leaned in on a digital campaign idea inspired by a friend.

She launched the Instagram account and campaign "Pause4aPic" that is all about sharing stories by strangers with other strangers. It's a public photo journal crafted in part by each participant, as we all discover new purpose and meaning during this forced pause.

The resiliency her campaign models was highlighted at RWU’s Center for Student Academic Success, one of the many ways the University's Peer Mentors keep moving forward during this challenging time.

Hannah shares how this platform has aided herself and others, and how you can pause and tell your story too.

What inspired you to document the stories of strangers on Instagram?

This idea came to me when we learned that we had an extended Spring break. I was inspired by one of my friends who shared a picture of her hometown sign. She said “I’ve passed this sign so many times, but during life’s rush I never made the time to stop and take a picture of it.” During this forced pause, she had the time to get out of her car and take that picture. That’s what inspired the idea to have other people share their stories about what they’re doing during this time. It also helped that I’m a PR major, so I have a lot of knowledge about social media and how impactful social campaigns can be.

What kind of responses are you getting since the launch of Pause4aPic?

A lot of people have shared that they really like the positive messaging around it. I’ve heard that it gives people something to do. Overall, positive feedback. People are having fun with it. 

It’s been fun for me. It’s a great way to stay distracted and an opportunity to practice healthy social distancing. Me personally, I always feel like I need to be doing something. In the beginning, I felt a little stressed. I needed something to focus my energy on. This project makes me feel less stressed because I feel like I have a purpose and am still involved in a community.

How do you think this platform can impact someone in a positive way? 

In our lives, we’re continuously passing things that we acknowledge, but are too busy to stop and appreciate them. The thought, “Next time, I’ll stop to take that picture,” always turns into the time after that, and the time after that. The Pause4aPic challenge/campaign encourages people to use this downtime as a positive way to take a pause, and take a photo of that landmark that you’ve always wanted to take. It’s just the little things. I think that these are some extraordinary times that we’ve never faced before, and they could be looked at negatively. But the best way to look at it is with some optimism. That’s what Pause4aPic encourages – sharing your story with a picture and just capturing these moments.

How do you see this campaign expanding as we’re still in this social distancing phase? 

I think this campaign can continue to expand, especially as a simple reminder. Pause for that picture, pause for those thoughts, pause for that time, and just allow yourself to breathe. We don’t know when this is going to be over, but I still would love for people to participate in this movement. It’s a great way to be a part of a storytelling community. 

Pause4aPics's first post went up March 20, 2020. In just a little over two months, the account has grown to 125 followers, and 37 published posts. Are you interested in telling your story? Join the campaign by simply sending a direct message of your images and caption to @pause4apic. If you’re willing to share on your own accounts, be sure to add #Pause4aPic or #p4ap.