When Brandon Stanton got fired from his job in finance in 2010, he could not predict that 11 years later he would be a best selling author and the head of one of the most popular and inspiring photography blogs of all time.
It all began as a photography project with the goal of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers and plot these pictures on a map of the five boroughs. Stanton then went on to interview his subjects and include their words in their portraits, while gaining a massive following on his social media channels.
Humans of New York is an initiative that showcases the lives of people living in New York as well as other locations across the world. The series now has a huge following as well as its own web blog.
The whole project is shedding light on injustices and inequalities in gender, ethnicity and health that persist in society. In raising awareness for these and other issues, Humans of New York is illuminating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Gender Equality, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Good Health and Well-Being.
In an interview with The Profile Stanton described his first successes on social media. “I remember my Facebook page started getting 10 new followers per day. I went to Central Park with my friend, and I told him, ‘If this keeps going like this, in three years, I'll have 10,000 Facebook fans.’ To me, that sounded like the biggest success that anyone could possibly ever imagine. Once those three years passed, it was something closer to 10 million. It was a thousand times larger than my definition of what success would've been.’
Now Humans of New York (HONY) has over 17 million followers on Facebook and 11.5 million followers on Instagram — and the project is still growing.
The blog’s millions of followers are fascinated by stories such as the one of young Vidal, a student in Brooklyn.
“When I was nine, I saw a guy get pushed off the roof of that building right there,” says Vidal.
This was the sentence that garnered the attention of the wider public on Vidal’s story and that helped Stanton collect $1.4 million for Vidal’s school. On top of that, Vidal and Stanton were even invited to meet President Obama in the Oval Office.
Another photo that changed the direction of Humans of New York was the Green Lady. It was the first time Stanton added a quotation to his picture and uploaded it. The picture became his most liked one so far.
Stanton later describes that moment as “eureka moment” where he realized that people were much more interested in the story of these people, rather than just their photo.
However, when Stanton gets asked about why he is not sharing his own story he answers, “I wish people knew none of it! I've always wanted Humans of New York to be bigger than I am.”
Humans of New York has grown over the years. The blog, social media and books now not only cover stories of New Yorkers, but also the stories of people from over 20 countries all over the world. It is fascinating that all of these stories and interesting people would have remained undiscovered, without a stranger in the street asking people about their stories.
The success of this project seems endless, even though it’s grounded theory is so simple — the question about the stranger you see every day on the street.
As Stanton says, “Truth is often spoken haltingly. With pauses. Like it's being dug up, one spoonful at a time, from somewhere deep.”
Read the latest stories of HONY here.