“What happened to your arm?”
“I was walking down the stairs and looking at the stars.”
Have you ever looked at a complete stranger and wondered “what’s their story?” I do. All the time. Luckily Humans of New York is there to satisfy our craving for answers…
Brandon Stanton, the photographer and mastermind behind HONY, began taking pictures in 2010 after he was laid off from his job as a bond trader in Chicago. He decided to pursue his idea of taking thousands of portraits of people living around New York City and organise them by neighbourhood on a website. What makes his blog unique is that each photograph is captioned with a quote from the subject, a response to one of Brandon’s questions – from the ordinary (What is that?) to the more reflective (What was the best day of your life?). The result is a beautifully intimate moment with the people we walk by every day and know nothing about.
Having followed HONY for awhile, I was always curious to know more about the person behind the lens. Who was he? How does he get complete strangers to open up like that? I recently watched the bio video on his website and found his story as fascinating as the people he photographs. It became instantly clear why he is so successful. He loves what he does. I mean, really loves it. And that passion, enthusiasm and genuine interest in people is present in every portrait he takes. It’s what draws people in and powers the “click” of his camera. He’s a good reminder that joy comes from within.
Last year, he was named one of TIME magazines 30 Under 30 World Changers, an appropriate title as he is currently collaborating with the UN to help raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals. Over the past two months he’s taken his blog on tour, traveling to 11 countries, including Iraq, South Sudan, Jordan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in just 50 days. Oh how I wish I could hold his camera bag for him…
Below are just a few of the portraits and stories of the individuals he’s met along the way. Follow Humans of New York on Facebook here or take a look at his website to find more of his amazing work. “Do you remember the happiest moment of your life?” “The first time I kissed her.” (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, Vietnam)
“I was seven years old when it happened. It was about 9 pm at night. We heard the neighbors screaming so we knew that the rebels were in the village. There were many people visiting in my house at the time, so all the men gathered in the main room. We had no guns, only knives. Soon the dog started barking, then we heard footsteps, and then we heard a knock on the door. They started calling for my father to come out. We didn’t answer, so they started shooting into the house. Everyone pushed against the door to try to keep it closed, but they knocked it down. My father saw that he couldn’t run, so he gave himself up. They took him away. Then they gathered all the men and boys, and marched us out of the back of the house. My brother tried to jump and climb up on the roof, but they saw him and shot him. I knew I had to try something different, so I waited until we were rounding a corner, and I jumped into a bush, and I kept crawling until I reached the other side, then I got up and ran. I ran all the way to the neighbor’s house, but they turned me away and locked the door. So I hid all night in the graveyard. The next day I returned to my house. They’d taken everything. They dumped my sick mother onto the floor and took her mattress. I found my father’s body in the barn. They’d cut off his arms and his legs.” (Kampala, Uganda)
“What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “Not being white.” (NYC, USA)