In the summer of 2010, Brandon Stanton launched a quietly ambitious project: He would photograph 10,000 New Yorkers (he had no photography training) and pinpoint their locations on a city map. “I wanted to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants,” he explains on his Web site — an abbreviated sort of living census. He would ask a few questions while he took the photos. These weren’t extensive interviews; “I would write down the first thing that came out of their mouth,” he said.
That’s how the blog Humans of New York was launched. What started as a few hundred followers became 18 million.
“As millions of people began to follow Humans of New York on social media, it also 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. It was the power of the individual story,” Stanton writes. “Building on this realization, I took the process that I’d developed on the streets of New York and began to travel overseas.”
His newest photography book, “Humans” (St. Martin’s Press, out Oct. 6), is the result of that journey. Stanton traveled to 40 countries and conducted interviews with the help of interpreters, bridging the cultural divide to present a portrait of people that is gorgeous and filled with empathy. And, as with Humans of New York, the stories are always bound to make the reader think, laugh out loud — “There’s nothing hard about being four,” remarks a 4-year-old New Yorker clad as a lion — and, often, shed a tear or two.
“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,” confides a father in Lahore, Pakistan, sitting next to his little girl (above). “This is her first month of school. She comes home and tells me exactly what happened, every day. I love it. If I’m not home for a few days, she’ll save up all her stories, then tell them to me all at once.”
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