When Brandon Stanton set out on this journey in 2010, his goal was quite simple: he wanted to photograph ten thousand people on the streets of New York City. The project was called the Humans of New York. In Humans, Brandon Stanton says that he soon collected thousands of portraits. He’d also have conversations with some of his subjects. Soon, he began including short quotes in the in the captions of the photographs. As the time passed, the conversations grew longer and longer. His questions became less casual. More searching and intimate. Soon, the answers of his subjects started appearing like short stories — sometimes as short as one sentence. As millions of people began to follow the Humans of New York on social media, it became clear that the appeal of the work had little to do with the city. It wasn’t New York that was commanding so much attention. It was the people and their stories. It was the power of the individual story. He expanded the project, and, now, we photographs and stories from the four corners of the world.
Here is story from Lahore, Pakistan. The middle-aged man with his daughter who has just started going to school tells Stanton, “I spent my childhood working, so I never had the chance to get an education. I was always envious of the boys who got to wear uniforms. This is her first month of school. She comes home and tells me exactly what happened, every day. I love it…”
A woman with two kids from Republic of Congo has another sad story. She tells him, “I would like them to be ministers or business-people. But this one is supposed to start school this year, and I don’t have the money to send him.”
New York may be the dream city for billions of people around the world. It remains the gateway to the land of opportunity, but few immigrants have stories of success to tell. Stanton found a typical immigrant in the Central Park in New York City. Most first-generation immigrants will identify themselves with him. He told Stanton, “One thing I love about New York is that it’s constantly reminding you that it doesn’t need you. It’s riding a wild horse. I wanted to be an artist, but the only work this city was willing to accept from me was to sit at a table and read tarot cards. So I did it for twenty years. I have no ability to predict the future. I told that beforehand. There’s no invisible hand moving the cards. There’s no spirit whispering secrets in my ears. But I do believe in the cards. I believe in them like you believe in a poem…”
A woman in Singapore tells him, “I don’t even know why they have Father’s Day. Dad’s vagina didn’t rip open and his nipples never bled once.”
A young girl in Iran how the generation gap affects peoples lives. Her story is sad and hilarious at the same time. He tells him, “I am trying to be an artist, but my parents just don’t understand. I showed a painting to my mom, and I was like: ‘Do you like it?’
And she was like: ‘I guess, but why is there a cigarette? Are you smoking now?’
And I was like: ‘No, Mom. The cigarette represents pain.’
And she was like: ‘Did we not love you enough?’”
He met a happy man in Uruguay who shares the secret of his happiness in these words, “My ex-wife got the real estate. And I got my peace.”
Reading short stories in Humans is like reading your own story. As you read it, you will be able to identify yourself with many of the characters in the book. Every story reminds you of someone you have known in life. By the time you finish the stories you have a new perspective about what it is like to be a human. Some of these stories will make you laugh, others will make you smile, but many of them make you feel like crying. Stanton is an accomplished photographer whose camera sees what ordinary humans like you and I cannot see with naked eye. Stanton is a formidable storyteller as well as an accomplished photographer.