A Dreamer Studying Sociology

Photo by Irina Belashov

“What beautiful eyes she has”, was the first thought I had when I met Britney H. I think that I had wanted to do a creative photo interview with Britney since the moment I met her. Every time we ran into each other during various Philly events, we would discuss how we need to find time to create something interesting and fun. Britney suggested us potentially using a piece of fabric to create movement in this collaboration. The location chosen was Washington Avenue Pier. I am strongest in my work when photographing outdoors but this particular session was a little bit more challenging for me. Since we could only do this session in the morning, I had to deal with harsh sunlight that every photographer genuinely dreads. Regardless, it was a great experience and I enjoyed Britney’s down to earth character. It was a pleasure trying to convey her personality and character through my photography.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

So, my real name is Brittney and my instagram handle is Olive, because I didn’t want to be found by my coworkers when I started my instagram.

Which do you go by now? Because I have you as Olive on my phone (laugh).

Both? I respond to both of them actually. People with whom I have relationships outside of my photo work usually call me Brittney. You can call me either one. I’ve lived in the city (Philadelphia) now for ten years but am from a little, suburban town called Perkasie. Currently, I live between Northern Liberties and Old City on Penn’s Landing. I work full time in HR at Kimpton Hotels and am also a part time student at UPenn, going for a degree in sociology. I am a really big fan of books, literature and words in general. I read a lot and if I am not reading a book for school then I am reading a book for pleasure. In fact, I usually have 2 or 3 books going at one time. I really want to write a book. I keep on creating timelines so I can sit down and work on it but every time I sit down and try to write, nothing ever comes out. So like I want to write the book, as a personal project but it’s just taking a very long time.  

Photo by Irina Belashov

Can you tell me the genre you want to write about?

It is based on a real life experience. It’s about how life moves for someone who is incarcerate versus someone who is not incarcerated. About how much life changes outside of that whereas nothing changes inside of it. Just to show the drastic difference of how time goes on when someone just sits there, dormant, waiting to be free again.

What do you like so much about sociology that made you decide to study it?

Coming from a really small town, I never really understood people’s differences. I mean the town I grew up in was probably 98% white, about 10,000 people. To me, it was a really sheltered life when compared to the city, where I realized how fascinating it is how we are all so different. All of us have such different views, backgrounds and perceptions of life. Yet somehow, we are all functioning together as one and just trying to live in harmony as much as we can. I just love studying how this happens, how people can come together despite their differences and work for the greater good. For sociology, I want to learn as much as I can about people in order to help them move forward, overcome challenges and become better people. I can’t do this until I fully understand how race, class, ethnicity and background affect people. So I am kinda looking into the future by starting from the beginning.

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Photo by Irina Belashov

What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?

I actually think that one of my greatest achievements is going back to school. I mean, I had gone back before and had fallen into that trap of where I thought “this is it, this is the life I’ve chosen”. I am really proud that I made the decision to put in the effort and go back, all while balancing work and school and pushing it to one degree further by going to UPENN. I feel that when I decide to do something, I either go all the way or don’t do it at all. The fact that I am still here and doing it to my best ability, is one of my greatest accomplishments. I think making a change in order to make that conscious efforts to better yourself is important and I see that as an achievement.


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Can you share some of your future goals with me?

One of my goals is to see a new country or part of our country (USA) every year. So just to see a new place every year is really important to me and I think it makes me a better person. For a work goal, I want to be in a position where someone reports to me. I want to be at a point in my career where people come to me for advice, guidance and direction versus me always being the one asking people for it. I enjoy the process of teaching and feel like I would enjoy the opportunity to teach someone what I’ve learned through my experiences. As for a school goal- one semester at a time! I want to make the experience mine. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people. I remember my first class at UPENN, within 5 minutes everyone whipped out their Macbook Airs while I had a 50 cent notebook and a pen I stole from the last company I worked for. I remember feeling so bad about myself and thinking “how dumb did I think I could come to UPENN and get away with a notebook”. Although I did end up buying a computer, figuring out how to not compare myself to others and wishing I was like them is something I also consider both a goal and accomplishment.

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What inspires you?

Color and texture inspire me. Although I am not outwardly colorful or wear anything textured, I am very inspired by them. I try to bring it into my space and often find myself being attracted to and moving towards it. Cinematography and just the whole movie/film world also inspire me. What I like to tell people “I am not ever really living on earth, in my mind, I’m in some sort of movie, in another world or in a dream.” Rarely is my mind where I actually am. I feel like I picture movies, I think in movies and I imagine movies into my own world. This inspires me to create “movie moments”, like when you are riding your bike and you raise your arms up into the air. I see a scene like this in a movie and I think to myself “Let me put this into my life. Let me do this and feel the magic”. Silly stuff like that inspires me. Sounds cheesy (laugh).

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What are your hobbies?

I love to bake and cook. As a lactose intolerant pescatarien with a honey and potato allergy, I had to learn how to make food that’s good for me, is wholesome and will sustain and give me protein etc. I have been a vegetarian pescatarian for 14 years, practically half of my life. I cut out dairy almost 10 years ago and my food allergies were a much recent discovery. All of this really forced me to learn to be creative when baking and cooking. I show my love through baked goods and I love to cook because I know it will make me feel good and get me through the day. I like to go to the grocery store and plan out my meals and recipes. Sundays I spend cooking, it’s become a good routine for me!

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Can you tell me of any causes, issues or ideas you are passionate about?

In terms of cause, animal rights are very important to me. I grew up on a farm where we had goats, pigs and sheep.  I would often look into these animals eyes amd I feel like this gesture made me a changed person. Not enough people take the time to make that connection. People are quick to talk about cats and dogs having specific personalities but they don’t consider that cows, pigs and sheep also have personalities and feelings. Something I’ve always felt strongly about is that is people were more exposed to farm or other animals, they would start to think differently.

In terms of causes, bullying. I was bullied when I was in school. It started from casual bullying when I was in elementary, I was taller than all the rest of the girls. I had big boobs and big feet which resulted in me constantly getting picked on. In middle school, when I really started to figure out my own style, people were really mean. They threatened to pull my pants down in the hallway, because they didn’t like my baggy pants. In high school, people would put gum in my hair, someone would spit spitballs at me etc. Bullying, for me, is a personal subject. We need to have more conversation about it. We need to better educate our children about it. We need to better educate our educators so they know what to look for, how to stop it and how to intervene. I think there needs to be more awareness because bullying really hurts people emotionally. So yes, I am passionate about anti-bullying and bullying awareness.

For the idea portion of this question I would like to say compassion. I’m a very much “Live and let live” kind of person. Except for me, it’s about having general compassion towards people, understanding others, having empathy towards them and just not being so quick to judge. I just feel like that is the direction humankind will choose to go in the future. This kind of goes back to the animal rights I mentioned, just having compassion for other living things and not being so self-centered.

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Is there any advice or personal life lessons you would like to share?

One of my favorite quotes from one my favorite authors, Christopher Gutierrez,“Everyday, I strive to be a little less sh*tty than I was before”. Chris is from the band Fall Out Boy, and is known as the Chris from the line “Hey Chris” in their song Grenade Jumper, (Hey Chris, you were our only friend, And I know this is belated, we love you back). Chris went through some serious sh*t in his life and he wrote about these experiences. I’ve met him a few times, he is an amazing person. This quote to me is so simple and yet so honest. I want to be a little less sh*tty than I was before. You don’t have to make a leap but a little step to be a better person, better friend, better partner, better child, better parent, better sibling, better student or a better worker. You can always make that one little, tiny step to be a little less sh*tty. I think this has really stuck with me and this is what I would encourage other to enact in their lives.

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If you liked the interview and want to keep up with Britney, follow her on her instagram! Otherwise, till next time! Dosvedaniya!



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