Humans of New York- Not Just an Online Phenomenon

Sara Pisak

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Even if a reader has only a casual presence in the ever-expanding world of the internet, they have probably heard of Brandon Stanton. Stanton, a Chicago bonds trader turned photographer, is responsible for the craze known as Humans of New York. Patrons of the social media scene flock by the millions to the Humans of New York Facebook page, Twitter profile, website and Instagram account. With all the technology and the social media buzz surrounding Stanton and Humans of New York, a reader might be curious and even shocked to find that Stanton leaves all this technology behind to create a tried and true book.

Stanton’s Humans of New York novel is a coffee- table book, a show piece of the merging modern technologically centered world and the old fashioned world of portrait photography. Humans of New York is in some ways the typical book that sits merely as a decoration on your coffee- table and for the most part goes unopened. It is a large print book with an eye catching cover and sparse prose. However, this text should be opened and by all means read. Unlike your typical decorations, Humans of New York contains intrinsic and aesthetic value.

Stanton, armed only with camera and with his people skills, embarks on a journey. Through single photographs, Humans of New York is the place where the Wall Street banker, the park skateboarders, the immigrants, the misfits, the social outcasts and the everyday man finds a home. Stanton leaves no stone unturned, photographing everyone and learning their interesting and uniquely personal life stories. The faces of these extraordinary people team and tumble from every page. Stanton’s portraits are beautiful. He stunningly plays with the ambient light and the surrounding composition. Stanton also uses the structure and varying aspects of New York’s diverse and distinct cityscape.

Wonderfully, I would not call Stanton the author of the text. He is more of an illustrator, a conductor of the understood and the misunderstood. Some of the captions are as simple as “Seen in Washington Heights” or “Today in Micro-fashion.” The major captions of the photographs are the people in the photos in their own words. Stanton may pose varying questions but the answers he receives are always poignant, funny, heart-warming, honest and authentic lessons and realizations about life. What Stanton in turns creates is a book filled with sadness, determination and the resilience of not only a city but of the human soul.

I highly recommend you join Stanton online or pick up this book. Do not allow this book to be a mere ornament or accent to your décor. There is no better feeling than holding a book with such power, such ingenuity and such honesty in your hands. Online, Stanton is currently taking photographs on humanitarian missions in Africa, Vietnam, India and Mexico. It is a rare feat that a photograph and a photographer can capture the essence of a city or the essence of the human spirit. Brandon Stanton has 5,000 portraits and counting that effectively captures the dynamics of the human condition.

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