Humans of New York – I salute you

Brandon Stanton is roaming the streets of New York looking to shoot people.

And at present count, he’s shot over 1800 people. 

I’m personally rooting for him to shoot more and reach his goal – of taking 10,000 photographs and represent people from all over New York City on Humans of New York.

And while Brandon does say that his goal is to take all these photographs, what he lets you find out for yourself is that he is an amazing storyteller or photo-journalist documentarian, or a bit of both.  Some of the photographs come with a back story about how he got the shots and the story behind the person (or people) whose photograph he took.

In The Protector we learn about a homeless man who sees himself as protecting street-newbies – an image that is juxtaposed with this person’s drug and alcohol abuse and unpredictable behavior.

In The Chess Hustler we get an inside view on how one homeless chess player from Washington Square Park gets a read on his marks by observing which chess pieces they decide to discard.

Brandon is honest enough to insert his own thoughts and feelings about his subjects to his readers, even when he does not express these thoughts to the object of his interest.  For example, in the Chess Hustler, Brendon thinks about the guy he is trying to interview, who is high on crack:

This is going nowhere, I thought. I’m wasting my time.

Like I don’t have eight million other people to choose from. Fuck this guy.  I’m going to pay him $5 dollars, he’s going to talk nonsense for a few minutes, then ask for more money. I almost didn’t go back.  But I knew Harry had very interesting things to say.

In the end, he does go back and he does capture the observations and he is rewarded for his effort.  There are several such dicey situations Brandon puts himself in to get his stories, and I admire that. 

Even though he comes across people who are trying to hustle him or are extremely suspicious of his motives, he has respect for his fellow humans that help him get his story and his shots. It’s this essential respect for the subject that makes his work all the more compelling.

Brandon just has a nose for people who are hiding something that will make for an amazing story.  He’s patient enough to cultivate his journalistic leads, and he doesn’t turn away from some of the most difficult people and situations that the streets of New York has to offer – and the rest of us are so much the better for it.


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