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Behind the Lens: Caleb Thiess

“I started putting my phone down and picking my head up. It’s crazy what’s out there when you give it a chance.”

Name: Caleb Thiess

Major: Cross Media Graphics Management

Year: Junior

Hometown: Eau Claire, WI

You might recognize this week’s campus celeb from roaming the streets of Menomonie with a camera in his hand, studying on the 4th floor of the library, or from his recently launched Facebook page “Humans of Menomonie.” His outlook on simply being present in everyday life is more than refreshing. It’s inspiring. Take note of this fellow Stoutie because he’s going places. Meet Caleb Thiess!

HC: You recently launched a Facebook page, “Humans of Menomonie,” tell us what that’s all about.

CT: Basically, it’s the same as the “Humans of New York” page on Facebook only it’s Menomonie. Every time I leave my house I bring my camera with me and try to sit down with someone, whether it’s five or thirty minutes or however long I can, and just see what they have to say. It can be something funny, or something very touching. So far, I’ve had some that were so inspiring that I left the interview in tears. After the interview, I simply type it up and post it to the page for viewing.

HC: What prompted you to start this page?

CT:  It might sound weird, but it was actually my Aunt who motivated to do it. The funny thing is that she never actually told me to do it or anything like that. I’ve always loved my Aunt for so many reasons, but what I love most is that she will literally strike up a conversation with a random stranger at any time of the day, no matter where she is. I love that. I mean when you think about it, people of our generation are quiet. A lot of people constantly have to have their phone in their hands and have to be texting or snapping or whatever it is. The thing that really gets me is the finger swipe of death. You know, someone scrolling through some type of social media page for hours, just to avoid conversation with anyone around him or her. I mean come on people, when did putting the phone down and talking to another human being become so hard for us to do? The worst part about this was I realized that I was doing the same thing. I conformed to society and I didn’t like it. So I started throwing myself out there in conversation like my Aunt. I started putting my phone down and picking my head up. It’s crazy what’s out there when you give it a chance.

HC: What message do you want this page to send to its viewers?

CT: My hopes are that people will read the Facebook posts about someone and spark up a conversation next time they see that person. I really hope that people are able to meet other people from this and become friends from it also. It’s amazing what some people have to say when you ask them.

HC: Judging by your work, it’s clear that you are a madly skilled cameraman. When and how did you realize that photography was something you wanted to pursue? What about graphic design?

CT: Well I wouldn’t say I’m madly skilled by any means. I put a lens on a camera body, turn it on, and take a picture. You’d be surprised how easy it is to make a picture look good. But, I don’t think photography is about just seeing the picture. Photography is about the feeling you get from that picture. I remember buying my first camera when I was a freshman in high school and loving it. I sold the camera within that year for some extra cash and just bought my second camera this past spring, which really got me into photography. I think I really fell in love with photography when I started doing astrophotography. Astrophotography is absolutely amazing because if you do it right, you are able to take pictures of the night sky and see billions of stars that you can’t see with the naked eye. This made me realize that photography is a powerful thing. I was able to capture something that I wasn’t able to see without my camera. There would be nights that I would find myself out in the middle of nowhere for hours just taking pictures of the sky and thinking about life. Taking a picture that has billions of stars in it changes your perspective on things. It’s one thing to see it on the Internet or television but it’s another to actually take that picture, knowing that it’s real, and came straight from your camera. From doing this, I was able to feel feelings that I’ve never felt, generate theories that I’ve never had, and self deepen myself in ways that no philosophy class ever could. Photography has shaped me into who I am today. It’s more than just photography for me; it’s the feeling that I get from it that no one else can give me. Okay that got a little deep, but back to the questions. I love graphic design also. I enjoy taking something that someone describes and putting it into the computer and making their thought come to life.

HC: Where do you get your inspiration?

CT:  I get my inspiration from negativity. Negativity and I go way back to the preschool days. We never really got along back then, but within the past couple years we’ve became closer and started to become civil towards each other. Sometimes it can knock you down, but when you are laying down on the floor, feeling like everything is crashing down on you, it’s what you do at that moment in time to get yourself back on your feet that is inspiring to me. To be able to go from a state of panic and total ruins, to a state of peace and tranquility is a beautiful and inspiring thing to me.

HC: Why did you choose to attend UW-Stout?

CT: I chose Stout because of their graphic industry programs that they have to offer. Ever since my first graphics class in high school, I’ve always been in love with creating things that come from the craziest parts of our imagination and being able to visually show that through graphics and design.

HC: What’s your favorite thing about Stout?

CT: By far it’s the people. I came from Eau Claire, where there would be people downtown who would just say to dumbest things or just be really rude and uninviting. In my opinion, everyone was very closed to letting anyone new in. It kind of felt like everyone thought everyone was trying to kill them or something. I still remember back to last year when I was a first year transfer student and I was walking home from a party and I walked up to a house with the door just wide open. I go to close the door and some guy comes walking up from the kitchen and greets me as if I was his best friend. He told me to come inside and have a beer. I was all for meeting new people at that point because I was new, so I walked in and cracked a beer open. It was such a good time. We laughed about stuff, played quarters, and became friends. I don’t know where else you could do that. That’s what I really love about Stout.

HC: How are you involved on campus/community?

CT: I’m pretty laid back when it comes to stuff like that. I’ve done a video for a local sorority with an event they had and I also did a video for Intervention Fest at Rehab. I’m always willing to be involved for a better cause if I can make the time to do it.

HC: What are your plans or aspirations for your future?

CT: Lay next to a beautiful blonde girl at the end of every day when I come home from work and be happy.



Favorite TV Show: Impractical Jokers

First Job: Sonic Drive-In (I don’t recommend eating at Sonic)

Dream Job: No job-just driving around in my Trailblazer and exploring new places.

Favorite Spot on Campus: 4th floor library.

Favorite App: Life (not available on the App Store but you still have access to it)


Jackie is currently a UW-Stout junior pursing a major in Professional Communications and Emerging Media with a concentration in Applied Journalism, working towards a career in Public Relations. Jackie is the Campus Correspondent, as well as a Feature and Campus Celebrity writer for the UW-Stout chapter. Originally from the east coast, Jackie has lived in the unfavorably cold state of Minnesota for most of her life. She enjoys blogging, music, spending time with her friends and family, cheering on her favorite MA sports teams, comedies, and simply getting up and being active. Jackie has many plans and aspirations, but has just begun her future as a writer.
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