Humans of New York

FullSizeRender (11)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.

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“I got married a few months ago. I mean, she’s my everything and all. But I’m just trying to get used to having someone else’s opinion around all the time. She doesn’t like my beard so she’s making me shave it. Today. At 6:40 PM.”
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“He’s a miracle dog. He’s twelve years old. He had a stroke three years ago where he lost the use of his back legs. And a month ago he fell off an eleven-story balcony, and only broke one rib. Eleven stories! I swear. Google ‘Bonzo’ and ‘balcony’. You’ll see.”
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“My wife and I are trying to cut back on the language at home. Something fell off the kitchen table last week, and my four year old daughter said: ‘Oh shit!’ So not only has she learned to cuss, but she’s learned to cuss correctly.”
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“I’ve been walking dogs for 14 years now. I’m the Pied Piper of dogs. I can walk five dogs in one hand, and five dogs in the other hand, and I can tell you which one needs to poop.”
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“Why God gave me only girls, only he knows.”
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“What’s your favorite thing about him?” “He does the supermarket shopping.”
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“I finished Pre-K. The best part was playing and having friends. The worst part was doing work because that’s boring.”

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.

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“I want to be a doctor. All I have to do is grow up and ask the hospital if they have room for any more doctors. I’m probably going to wait until I turn twelve. The best part will be using the thing where you listen to your heart- I love doing that. The worst part will be giving injections because I’m not good at hurting people.” (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
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“Today’s his tenth birthday. He’s a very emotional young man. He likes to solve other people’s problems. One time when he was five years old, he came with me to the store and we bought two pounds of fresh apricots. I let him carry the bag home. He walked a little bit behind me the entire way. After awhile, I asked him to hand me an apricot. ‘I can’t,’ he said. ‘I’ve given them all away.’ I knew then that I was raising a humanitarian.” (Tabriz, Iran)

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.

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“I don’t think my intelligence comes across very well because I tend to get overexcited about things, like a little dog. Nobody at school notices when you’re reading Jane Austen. But everyone tends to notice when you get really excited about lunchtime.”

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.

“We met while he was renovating a house for me and my ex-husband. My ex-husband wasn’t interested in helping. He kept saying: ‘Go with Howard to pick out the windows.’ And: ‘Go with Howard to pick out the doors.’ Well, Howard and I were getting along so well, my ex-husband eventually said: ‘Just go with Howard.'”
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“Every week I get one dollar for allowance. Then I get to choose the section where I put my dollar. There are four sections: spend, save, donate, and invest. If I put a dollar in the ‘invest section,’ my parents give me two extra pennies at the end of every month. I’ve only used my ‘spend section’ twice! I have way over $10 in my ‘invest section.’ I used to have more but I took some money out and put it in my ‘donate section.’ We used it to buy food for people who don’t have much money in their ‘spend section.'”

Check out his website here. And buy his books here.

(all photos and stories from Humans of New York Instagram)


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