Humans of New York
In Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton, walks up to strangers in the city of New York, and asks permission to take their photos. Then he asks some unlikely personal questions like:
What’s been the saddest moment in your life?
What’s the biggest goal you still want to attain in life?
What’s the story behind that tattoo?
Tell me something about your job that most people don’t know?
How would you define a good poem?
Mr. Stanton asks a gentleman of 29 years of age in Queens that was loading boxes of beer outside a restaurant in the East Village, what his saddest moment in life was. Mr. Cummings, who had agreed to be photographed and seemed delighted by Mr. Stanton, perhaps even intrigued by the question, did not hesitate to answer. He said it was an arrest after a fight in Las Vegas. Others tell him about the clothes they’re wearing, others about conflicts with spouses, loved ones, sad stories about being outed, and even some terribly inspirational stories that might make you cry.
With a certain folksiness that disarms people and passable photography skills, Mr. Stanton has achieved an unlikely success. After publishing photos and quotes on his Facebook page and his website, he accumulated more than 1 million fans in three years.
Now, hundreds of those photos and interviews have been compiled into Humans of New York, which has become a publishing phenomenon. It hit the bestseller list of the New York Times, catapulting past many other extremely successful books on its way.
Mr. Stanton is without training as a journalist. He claims to have only owned two cameras in his entire life and admits that he has never had any training on how to correctly use them. When he moved to New York in 2010, he was without friends, nearly broke and recently relieved of his job as a trader in Chicago. Three years later, he has transformed, and now earns a healthy income, unusual for a young and inexperienced photographer.
After graduating as a major in film, Mr. Stanton found a job in Chicago as a trader, and on weekends spent hours photographing the city. But after he was fired in 2010, he decided to shift to a new career. In New York, much of his time was spent on an ambitious project photographing thousands of people and allocating their whereabouts as a kind of virtual map of New York. After several months, he began to move in a different direction, in addition to taking their picture, he would now interview his subjects and ask them about their lives. He states that it was emotionally draining at the outset, because many would say no.
But gradually his project attracted an audience, mostly twentysomethings who left enthusiastic comments on the web page. When his Facebook page had gathered hundreds of thousands of followers, Mr. Stanton decided it was time to collect the photos in a book.
It is this intimacy, combined with the photos that are clear and simple instead of high concept, which has made Mr. Stanton’s fan base so fervent.