When Brandon Stanton first started the Humans of New York project, it was initially a personal goal to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street. Eventually, he started interviewing his subjects (not just photographing them from across the street). Using these photos, and his subjects’ stories, he started a blog to give people a glimpse into the lives of New Yorkers. New York is an incredibly diverse city and using his portraits he is able to highlight all the wonderful differences of the people of New York.
Through his photos, he tells stories of people from all different backgrounds. He exposes the effects of poverty and violence, of drugs and alcohol. He explores the realities of marriage and dating and writes of beautiful stories of relationships, from amicable friendships to new couples to people who have been married for decades. He captures the stories of people who have just lost a loved one or lost someone years before and are still mourning. He’s taken pictures of couples who just got engaged in Central Park. There are photos of little kids, who innocently describe their dreams and talk about their favorite subject in school. And sometimes just pictures of their adorable fashion.
He’s since moved beyond New York and the US and traveled to over twenty different countries to bring their stories to the rest of the world. Most recently, he spent time in South America, from Chile to Peru and Colombia. But I would say his biggest contribution was his humanitarian work in the Middle East and in photographing Syrian refugees in Greece and Turkey. Through those portraits, he was able to bring awareness to the realities of the refugee crisis but also shed light on the amount of poverty and violence in those countries as well as cultural differences. His major goal from those trips however, was to present a different side of the narrative. To show that despite the major cultural differences, there are common threads, particularly the importance of love and family.
And he’s moved beyond New York in our own country, to the Midwest capturing the struggles that people in blue collar America deal with every day; veterans who have continued to fight to assimilate back into society; terminally ill children and their families who were patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and prisoners at a Federal Correctional Complex in Allentown, Pennsylvania. And of course, there are the stories and photos of celebrities at the Met Gala and politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
I’m always amazed at his innate ability to find these people who are willing to and feel comfortable enough to open up to him. But I am so glad that he did; I would never have the opportunity to read some of these amazing stories, which sometimes make me cry but most often make me smile. Overall, in his portraits he reveals the complexities of humanity and I think that is such important work.
Check out his website here. And buy his books here.
(all photos and stories from Humans of New York Instagram)