While most people know New York as “the city that never sleeps,” few, if any, paid homage to its inhabitants for years. Then, along came Brandon Stanton, a photographer who made it his life’s mission to “catalogue” those who live in the Big Apple.
You may have seen a friend click ‘like’ on a particularly poignant Humans of New York story. Or, perhaps you’ve seen it trend on Twitter. If you’re not a current follower and you’re dying to learn more, here’s a quick and easy guide to what the Humans of New York project is and how it’s evolving.
How did the Humans of New York Project start?
Once upon a time, the project’s founder Brandon began photographing New York’s inhabitants as they made their way around the city. After having a few chats with them, he soon realised they came with pretty interesting stories. Before long, he harnessed the power of said stories and added them to his photos, gaining millions of followers as a result.
Initially, Brandon aimed to gather 10,000 photos for the project. This all started in November November 2010, but soon his efforts metamorphasised into a Facebook sensation. Today, he’s taken his work beyond New York and has started capturing images and stories from around the world.
How has Humans of New York evolved?
What started as a simple project has now become so popular, it’s turning into a TV series. Even better still, there are books cataloguing some of the best and saddest stories. So, how did it reach this stage and where is the project today?
When asked about the project, Stanton often states how thousands of his photos and their captions would zoom past the audience. In other words, nobody would notice them. Rather than giving in, he seized on the opportunity to understand his audience better. This meant he soon discovered two things: they preferred Facebook to his blog and they loved the weird and the wonderful.
It’s for this reason that the Humans of New York Project won’t feature characters such as Gail with two kids, a normal house, and a stable upbringing. They’ll often feature people such as the woman who had a baby during her teenage years, was made homeless by her family, and then became a CEO anyway.
Rather than sticking to New York, Brandon has taken his project around the world. From Pakistan through to Rio, he’s explored areas of the Earth that you’ll either die to visit, or die because you’re visiting them. The point is, he’s slowly amalgamating tales of delight and woe from a range of cultures and backgrounds, feeding the public’s desire to learn more about the way others live.
Why is HONY so popular?
Now that you’re familiar with what the project is, it’s safe to use its acronym ‘HONY’. Imagine if one of your friends turned to you and said “I’m going to become famous because I’ll take pictures of strangers and ask them to tell me all about their deepest darkest secrets”. You’d think they were crazy, right?
Yet, for many reasons, HONY is a roaring success. Some of the theories behind this include:
You’re exploring other worlds in a candid way
You learn about experiences you didn’t think could happen
The posts flow with empathy, so they probably resonate with you and your experiences at times
Whatever the reasons for its popularity, there’s no denying that HONY is a great way to delve into other cultures. The posts don’t just skim the surface of what’s happening worldwide; they dig deeper than a surgeon’s scalpel, allowing you to see life with “warts and all.”
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