Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Humans of New York

What started as a photographic census of New York has blossomed into a wildly popular photoblog featuring random faces and stories from the Big Apple.

Brandon Stanton

Humans of New York launched in 2010 and won a 2013 Webby Award for best use of photography. It won a People’s Voice Award for best cultural blog.

Self-taught photographer Brandon Stanton started the photoblog after moving to New York from Chicago where he was a bond trader. He was fascinated by everyday scenes walking around New York.

“I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants,” Stanton writes on his blog. “Somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met and began including these snippets alongside the photographs.”


With more than a million followers on Facebook and Tumblr, “HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York,” Stanton says.

Last October, Humans of New York was published in book form and became an instant bestseller.

There is no greater form of admiration than imitation. Hundreds of knock-off photoblogs have cropped up all over the world – from Humans of Brooklyn Tech to Humans of New Delhi.

Stanton’s original blog has captured extensive media attention, but its momentum comes from shared word of mouth. That’s how I heard about it. The photographic storytelling seals the deal.

Featured portraits include a bulldog embracing a larger bulldog, with the caption, “All you need is love.” A man with a long flowing white beard admits, “I’m homeless and I’m an alcoholic, but I have a dream. I wanna go fishing.”

tumblr_mip0zsrToV1qggwnvo1_400Then there is a photo of an elderly woman who tells Stanton, “When my husband was dying, I said, ‘Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?’ He told me: ‘Take the love you have for me and spread it around.'” Hard to find better grounded philosophy and encouragement than that anywhere else.

There are all sorts of faces – a rabbi flanked by two kids dressed like astronauts, a tough-looking guy on a subway car, a mystery man standing on a manhole cover, a bundled-up woman on the beach at Coney Island and a transvestite showing off bright blue leggings.

Stanton recently travelled to Iran and continued his photographic explorations, albeit with a little more danger than the streets of New York. Some of his Iranian photos also appear on his photoblog.


What captivates is the unvarnished reality captured in a candid photograph with a simple story attached.

Stanton has posted a bulging portfolio with thousands of visual snippets. With 8 million people living in New York, he has a lot more faces to capture.


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