Monday, November 16, 2015

Humans of New York: Stories

Title:  Humans of New York:  Stories
Author:  Brandon Stanton
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2015. 432 pages.
ISBN:  1250058902 / 978-1250058904

Book Source:  I read this book because I love Brandon Stanton's work.

Opening Sentence:  "Occasionally I'm invited to colleges and seminars to explain the story behind Humans of New York."

Favorite Quote:  "Listen, a person is like a rubber-band ball. We've all got a lot of bad rubber bands, and a lot of good rubber bands, and they're all wrapped up together. And you've got to have both types of bands or your rubber-band ball ain't gonna bounce. And no use trying to untangle them You know what I'm saying?" [from one of the many stories in this book]

I love finding books where I see my own story and my own life reflected from the pages, and Brandon Stanton's work often does that. Even when the stories that do not reflect my life, I love and appreciate the humanity that they capture - the stories of humanity one person at a time.

A little history of the project - Brandon Stanton was not a photographer. He got his first camera in January 2010 while he lived and worked in Chicago. In July 2010, he lost his job. Over the next couple of months, he slowly travelled from Chicago to New York, taking pictures all the way. Upon his arrival in New York, his initial intent was to create a photographic census of New York City -  10,000 portraits plotted on a city map.

He had a blog and some visibility. A friend, then, created a Facebook page and a Tumblr blog. The project went viral. The Facebook page alone has almost 16 million followers as of today.

At this point, Brandon Stanton's work should really be called Humans of the World. In 2014, the United Nations invited him to visit and photograph in a 50 day tour of 11 countries around the world.  He followed with another trip to even more countries in 2015. Many of these countries are in the headlines of news media, most often for very negative reasons. Brandon Stanton's work provides a look at the people behind the name and news of that country. People like you and me. In fact, in an interview, he remarked on the similarities that exist, "I think the similarities I’ve noticed are the aspirations of people. It seems that everywhere I go, people want the same things – security, education, family. It’s just that so many people have no avenues through which to obtain these things."

This is the third compilation of his work to be published. The first was Humans of New York, and the second was Little Humans. The images remain the same - one portrait at a time. The stories accompanying each portrait are a little more in depth.

The book has no overt organization, but the portraits and accompanying stories do seem to be grouped by general topics. I am amazed by the intensely personal details people are willing to share in this forum.  Some of the topics include parenting, relationships, addiction, mental illness, terminal illness, death, dreams, hopes, aspirations, despair - really any and all aspects of life. Some share a simple moment. Some are sweet and some shocking. All are touching in their own unique way.

This book does not capture the images of of Brandon Stanton's trip beyond the United States (I hope those books are coming!), but from its base in New York City, it does capture a world all the way from a homeless person on the streets of the city to the nation's President in the White House.  Perhaps, in one or more of the stories, it may even capture you. I will continue to follow his work and remind myself that every person - every single one - has a story if we take the time to listen.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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