Each day, we see hundreds of strangers. Rarely do we think twice about a passing face. There is the occasional person, however, who stands out from everyone else. The one who strikes you differently, and whose story you wish to hear. Unfortunately, it is not exactly socially acceptable to approach a stranger and express this desire. ‘Humans of New York’, a photography blog and Facebook page, by Brandon Stanton, looks past these ideals, embracing his own curiosity, as well as others’ greatest life struggles and victories. In taking strangers’ photos and having conversations with them on the streets of New York City, commonplaces and ideologies are challenged. By using rhetorical appeals for a global, internet-based audience, Stanton encourages diversity, acceptance of others, originality, and creativity.
Many people dream of quitting their uninteresting job to experience their true ambitions instead. Stanton was fired from his mundane job, leading him to pursue his genuine interests. After getting laid off, he moved to New York City with no money, but with an ambition of taking 10,000 portraits (‘Humans Of New York’ Creator Explains How He Gets Strangers To Open Up). Brandon Stanton’s original project was to simply take strangers’ pictures in New York City, and upload them to his blog. His vision changed, as he began to interview strangers in addition to taking their pictures, and posting both online, creating his blog “Humans of New York” (HONY). The combination of strangers’ portraits and their most euphoric, sober, or intense moments, led HONY’s online follower count to soar to seven million, adding to the blog’s logos. His work is a reflection of the encouragement to pursue one’s individual goals. Few people truly and wholeheartedly attempt to achieve their goals, since it involves a high potential for failure. As seen by his actions taken to create HONY, Stanton challenges the commonplace of resisting the pursuit of one’s passions, encouraging his audience to create their own definitions of success.
Captioned “Today in microfashion…”
As Stanton’s Facebook followers grew, so did his business opportunities. He took his high-influence platform, and used it to express his political concerns; both by interviewing Hillary Clinton, and making a post entirely dedicated to opposing Donald Trump. By using his online popularity to touch on politics, Stanton displays political involvement as a civic duty. The stories of strangers within ‘Humans of New York’ are the focus of Brandon’s blog, and each post is highly valuable. However, Stanton’s own story is also significant, as it reveals messages he exhorts in his photographs. In examining Stanton’s career choices, it is clear that he is a proponent of challenging ideologies, and being involved in political contexts.
Stanton’s inspirational background advocates originality, taking risks, and being politically involved. His blog further reinforces these messages. Most people photographed and interviewed on HONY are on it because they are different, in some way. Whether one dresses in a peculiar fashion, or has a distinct story, these are the people Stanton looks to approach on the streets. For instance, a very popular post, with nearly 100,000 likes on Facebook, shows an Arabic woman who expresses her feelings on being foreign in America. The photo is a very simple portrait of the woman in her hijab, and the interview is similarly concise. The woman expresses her indifference towards those who stare at her, as she is confident in her diversity. This post is extremely powerful because it can be applied to anyone who feels foreign, in any way. In having possible applications to a wide variety of people, in multiple contexts, HONY’s appeal is heightened. It is a strong example of Stanton’s mission in HONY, which is to convince people to unapologetically embrace their differences. In including people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, ages, and economic statuses, Stanton proves the civic duty of New Yorkers, as well as others in a broader context, to cherish their culture and originality.
“What surprised you most about America?”
“People don’t stare as much as I thought they would. But even if they do stare, that means you’re doing something different. And that’s a good thing, right?”
More importantly than embracing each other’s originality, Stanton calls for citizens to recognize people’s humanity. “Humans of New York” encapsulates all humans. Many times, Stanton interviews the homeless, disabled, or simply people with strikingly dreary stories. These posts include high emotional appeals, and they frequently bring out compassion in HONY followers, as seen in the majority of their comments. For instance, one post shows a homeless man, who speaks on the tragic death of his wife and daughter. The man shares his deep feelings of remorse for resorting to drugs as a coping mechanism following the adversity he faced. While his story is quite intense, many people can relate to this in different ways, even if they have not faced such terrible events. Sadness is universal, and thus a specific post of one man’s story can have a large international appeal. Stanton publishes such accounts to remind his audience of the similarities everyday people have with the less fortunate. In reading such raw stories, followers of HONY are impacted. Whether they are more thankful for their privileges, or reminded of certain personal situations, Stanton’s posts are packed with pathos, and they never fail to lead readers to reflect on their lives.
On the surface, “Humans of New York” may appear to be a plain blog with pictures of random people in New York City. However, when exploring Brandon Stanton’s incentives in creating such a production, the blog goes much beyond simple pictures and interviews of strangers. Stanton’s individual story proves this. He demonstrates the importance of setting one’s own standards of success, as well as being authentic and goal-oriented. His messages are further seen in his blog posts, in which physically different people are typically photographed. HONY calls Citizens to question commonplaces and be politically involved. Lastly, through HONY’s use of pathos, logos, and raw human emotion, Stanton facilitates the attraction of a global audience.
“Humans of New York | Facebook.” Humans of New York | Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.
“In 10,000 Snaps Of The Shutter, A ‘Photographic Census’ Of A City.” NPR, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
Kornowski, Liat. “‘Humans Of New York’ Creator Explains How He Gets Strangers To Open Up.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.