By Kaavya Nair
Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
‘I began Humans of New York in the summer of 2010. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map’, it was this idea that led Brandon Staton to create the revolution called ‘Humans of New York.
In July of 2010, Staton lost his finance job in Chicago and instead of looking for ways to update his resume, he decided to forget about money and pursue what he was truly passionate about. He started his journey across several cities of United States, picturing anything and everything he saw and uploading them on his blog. At some point during his travel, he had a slight change of focus and began photographing Humans. This move defined the rest of his career.
“Humans of New York” is not about the photographs, it is about the approach. The blog highlights more seemingly personal and life-altering conversations with strangers, simply by stopping people, talking to them, and taking an interest in their lives. While maintaining an upbeat and supportive tone, Stanton does not whitewash his picture of New York. He includes images of people fighting battles with poverty, substance abuse, and mental illness. He celebrates the people he photographs — not just for their successes, but for their struggles — and for their humanity. It is about what brings people together – their dreams, their aspirations, their pain, their joy and the idea that there are so many ways to create divide among people, yet everyone is so similar in the way life turns out.
This photographic census has since contributed to build bridges between neighbourhoods, between boroughs, and between people – not just in New York but across the world. One of the biggest highlights of this page, so far, has been the World Tour that he took in collaboration with the United Nations. In addition to gathering portraits and stories, the purpose of the tour was to raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals, which are pictured. The MDGs are eight international development goals that every member state of the UN agreed should be accomplished by the year 2015. The point of the trip was not to ‘say’ anything about the world, but rather to visit some faraway places and listen to as many people as possible.
Today, nearly over 700,000 people have liked the Humans of New York Facebook Page. The page has raised nearly $500,000 for charity in the past six months. It is amazing, how much people choose to disclose and how brave these people are. Why is this so? Because so much of our life revolves around small talk, weather, finances and things like that. Here came somebody on the street really digging at the marrow of one’s life and experiences. It was validating in a deep sort of way, and this creates the magic that this blog is.
Everyone has a story and everyone wants to be heard, Brandon Staton made this possible, in his own unique way, but more than just ‘Photography of New York’, Humans of New York manages to transform a city that’s not known for being particularly friendly from something impersonal to something intensely supportive and personal, and in the process shrinks the world into a smaller place- One Human at a time.
Kaavya Nair is a currently a second year Political Science major at Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is passionate about liberal arts and obsessed about issues of International significance. An avid debater and a passionate writer she strongly believes that a dedicated youth working together can create change for the better, and hopes to positively impact the world through her passion and dedication for words.