Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Humans of New York

Brandon Stanton is on a mission: He wants to find every interesting person in the city, and take their photograph.

And he's on his way. He currently has nearly 1,400 portraits on his website — Humans of New York.

Here's his mission statement:

Humans of New York is a multi-year project to construct a photographic census of the city of New York. The team consists of one man, who walks the streets several hours a day, looking for interesting people, and taking their photograph. Currently, the project is in the gathering phase. The goal is 10,000. Photos are uploaded as they are collected, and arranged by date. When a substantial body of portraits has been gathered, they will be grouped by neighborhood and displayed geographically. Upon completion, an interactive map will show every neighborhood in New York through the faces of its inhabitants.

So far, he has taken plenty of photos in the East Village, including:

The site also includes accompanying stories. Yesterday, he had photos of a traveler on St. Mark's Place named Rancid and her dog Riot. You can find her story here.

I asked Brandon about taking photos in the East Village compared to other parts of the city.

"Anywhere in the East Village is an easy day. The general rule is: 'Anyone who is out to be seen, is willing to be photographed.' Beautiful girls, fashionistas, artists — they love to be seen," he says. "The farther you get from the artistic and high-fashion crowd, the more resistance you run into. In the East Village, I probably get about 90 percent of the portraits I ask for. Somewhere like Bedford-Stuyvesant, that number drops below 50 percent.

"I do tend to value the portraits from rougher neighborhoods more, because they are harder to obtain, and rarer. But whenever I get rundown, its back to the East Village for a breather."

Find more at Humans of New York here.

[All photos by Brandon Stanton. Reprinted with permission]


Anonymous said...

Yeah, 'cause god knows there are no beautiful girls, fashionistas or artists in Bed-Stuy.

Sorry, but something about this guy rubs me the wrong way. And as a former 'beautiful girl' (now a pretty lady of 40, thank you very much) I was not 'out to be seen' -- I was going to work, to the dry cleaner, living my life just like anyone else. And the last thing I would have wanted was some guy bugging me for a photo thinking that my prettiness, something I had zero control over, automatically meant I 'loved to be seen.' I actually didn't, most days.

Also, when you say you want to find EVERY interesting person -- which is totally impossible -- you are automatically excluding every person whose photo you don't take as UNinteresting. I prefer to deem people interesting or not based on their personalities and life histories, not their appearances.

Very lovely photos, though, that I can't deny.

BaHa said...

The EV is beautiful girls and fashionistas? My desire to see photos of those toy-dog-toting idiots is less than nil.

Anonymous said...


Real pretty girls and "cool" people would never submit to some stranger taking their photograph or pose. It takes some kind of validation craving loser to give in to that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to send this to you anonymously, but he too sent me his link and I checked it out, and I must say I agree everything with anon.#1. And he too rubbed me the wrong way. Seems like he would only photograph what he deemed cool or attractive, and most of his photos are the latter, according to him. Have a feeling that he's a transplant and never seen anything like the EV or NYC.

Bob Arihood's photos are objective and much more real, interesting, and candid. And it's up to the viewer of Bob's photos what is attractive, interesting, etc. or not, not the photographer's subjective view. But like Anon. #1 said, nice photos, even so.

Anonymous said...

Do the people in those photos look like validation craving losers to you? Or toy-dog-toting idiots? I think the photos are pretty diverse. But from the looks of these comments, he didn't get enough angry people.

Anonymous said...

11:07, it seems from his bio he is definitely a transplant. Not that "white guy ex-stockbroker from Georgia" has anything to do with why he's less popular in Bed-Stuy than our transplant-heavy EV. ;)

He's very talented (although no Bob Arihood -- but who is?), so the sooner he quits it with the Sartorialist routine the better.

Brandon said...

Hey everyone. Brandon here. I'm new at all this-- so not sure if commenting on my own post is OK, but I'm also an EV Grieve regular, so here goes.

I would only ask that you actually look at my photos. Seems like the general theme of these comments is that I photograph, or look for, a certain kind of person. Even if I "rubbed you the wrong way," I would only ask that you make the effort to determine if your initial impression was the correct one. Maybe your comments are correct, I don't know, they are just never ones that I have heard from people who have spent any time looking at my work.

I am a transplant. Maybe I don't know what "New York" really is, or what the "East Village" really is. Bur perhaps there is value to not having such fixed ideas.

Sorry if my quote rubbed anyone the wrong way. Sure there is a lot of homogeneity to New York's neighborhoods, but I was asked to tell how the Village was different. I needed an answer. Three words popped up: more fashionistas, more artists, more beautiful people.

Sorry if that offended people. Again, please take the time to actually look at the people in my photos.

I love Bob Arihood's eye. I love Bobby William's eye. Mine is different. Just different.

Anyone who I've rubbed the wrong way, please email me, I'd love to meet you and buy you a cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

Brandon, I'm Anon 8:23, the first person to say that you "rub me the wrong way" (which you helpfully repeated three times, thank you). I also said your photos were lovely, and later (at 11:53) said you were very talented. How is this not "actually looking at [your] photos"?

Also, if it's artists and fashionistas you like, you might want to spend a little more time in Bed-Stuy.

take care

Brandon said...

Anonymous, I live in Bed Stuy.

Brandon said...

And I didn't thank you for your compliments. They were very nice- thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well then, you should already know how many gorgeous and artistic people live there.

I love the EV but I don't fool myself into thinking that wealthy young people have cornered the market on style. And the genesis of art often grows out of these "rougher" neighborhoods (to use your term). Even what people generally consider "East Village" style today came directly from the bombed-out streets of three, four decades ago.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA, that's pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

"Interesting-looking" people are no less dull or ordinary inside than everyone else. Personally I am sick of all you.

Marty Wombacher said...

Personally, I'm not going to judge him by his mission statement, I'm just interested in the work and his photos are very good and I like the stories I've read that accompany some of them. So far it's a diverse looking group of people he's shot and I wish him well with his project. I try not to judge someone by their online presence, for me I've found it never represents the total person in real life.

Anonymous said...

His photography and stories are interesting. They challenge you. Brandon has an attitude that you may disagree strongly with it, but he is at least honest and real about it. Brandon's work is as interesting as a reflection on Brandon himself as it is on its own merits. The fact that what he's doing upsets you this much is a positive reflection on his work. At least its making you feel and think something strongly. That's the real value in any artwork.

Anonymous said...

The fact that what he's doing upsets you this much is a positive reflection on his work.

Absolutely no one here has indicated that they were unsettled by Brandon's work. He takes gorgeous photos of fantastic people, but comes off slightly like a rube when speaking about it. He is not exactly Robert Mapplethorpe asking us to look at (pardon me) leather whips inserted in butts.

Brandon's photography is excellent and if you want my advice (which you probably don't, but I am an almost 20-year publishing vet, so here it is anyway): present the work with minimal commentary, if any; drop the "every single interesting person" theme, because it is silly; and just let the lovely photos speak for themselves.

Brandon said...

Anonymous, if you don't mind, send me an email. Would actually like to hear more of your advice

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Brandon, but I can't do that. I don't work for free and my previous post is pretty much the extent of my advice.

As an editor all I can say is what I (ironically) say with most things: The less said, the better.

Welcome to New York. I mean that sincerely. Keep doing what you do best and don't try to 'frame' it. Your photos are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Oh and: Learn to love Bed-Stuy, and if you can't, leave it. The way you speak of it sounds disrespectful, like they are lucky to have you rather than the other way around. Photograph where you live, get to know it completely, embrace it.

And please don't romanticize the EV and the lamest people in it.

Roger_Paw said...

Thumbs up, Anonymous publishing vet. Your comments are solid.

I was a transplant 20 years ago. Even though I've been kicking around the grit and grime of the LES all this time, who knows? I may still be seen as a transplant by some.

As someone who moved to the city at a highly-impressionable age, I empathize with Brandon's inexperienced awe of the EV but have to agree with you that he's gotta learn to appreciate where he is now in Bed-Stuy and to embrace its own nuances. ALTHOUGH, Bed-Stuy today sure as hell isn't the same Bed-Stuy from the early to mid-nineties.

Anonymous said...

Rog (I'm calling you 'Rog' now btw -- you are the previous Roger P, correct?): I have a little crush on you. It all started when you thought NYP reporters were paid well (hee) and I was all smug and "Actually ..." And yet you didn't ding me for it.

xoxo the Anonymous Publishing Vet

Brandon said...

No problem, thanks for your words. Is this what you found disrespectful?

Roger_Paw said...

LOL! Awww.. thank you, behbeh. Yes, I'm Roger P, RP, and Roger Paw.

Anonymous said...

No Brandon, it was the quote EVG posted above that sounded disrespectful to me. "The farther you get from the artistic and high-fashion crowd, the more resistance you run into. In the East Village, I probably get about 90 percent of the portraits I ask for. Somewhere like Bedford-Stuyvesant, that number drops below 50 percent."

Now having followed your link ... Think of how powerful it would be to present that (absolutely amazing -- I wouldn't be spending my time talking to you here if you weren't so goddamn talented) photo of Dominique simply as "Dominique: Bed-Style." Instead of prefacing it with some nattering about crack. Does Dominique look like a man who has ever done crack? Or the guy with the motorcycle (hubba hubba!), does he seem like a violent, yelling crackhead with 50 cats? No. So what is your point with the little intro? Do you think that by giving us crime rates you are telling us something new about Bed-Stuy? And then at the end you get "mugged." Of course you did. Except: You didn't. You are not a sociologist and honestly, you should stop editorializing. Your words could come back to bite you in the ass.

This is just my advice. Do what you will. Chike's dinosaur sounds brightened my whole day. The man in white next to the stained glass could be an album cover, the two young men in front of the graffitied brick are gorgeous, and the tiny hugging Asian kids are ridiculously cute. Why do you feel a need to preface their precious images with some bullshit about crack? Only you know the answer to that, my friend.

I'm done here. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Hold up -- the link you asked me if I found disrespectful was put up the same time I made my comment about Bed-Stuy. So you KNOW I wasn't referring to that blog post.

So now not only do I find you racist (tired of dancing around that, there's my honest opinion), you are self-promoting and disingenuous as well.

Congratulations, your roundup of offensive qualities will probably take you very far in this city.

Anon. March 2, 2011 11:07 AM said...

Thanks Anonymous for articulating those. In addition, I just think that the title is condescending "Humans of New York", as if saying that NY is full of animals, but no, there are humans here and attractive and cool ones too, especially in the East Village. People of New York or Faces of New York would have been a better title, but hey, it's his blog.

Sam said...


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, "haters gonna hate" -- the battle cry of anti-intellectual idiots and other conversational asphyxiators since the early 2000s. It was only a matter of time before someone chimed in with that substance-free chestnut. This thread is toast.

Fetuslasvegas said...

It is insane to me that someone finds the title of your blog "Humans of New York" offensive due to the word "Human" implying "amimal". Seriously? It's offensive to call humans... Humans? By calling humans humans, you are implying that they are animals?? What is this I don't even... What????

I think the anonymous editor needs to stop being so condescending and stop trying to paint you as a "racist" (suddenly being nice to a city or states cultural divides and areas makes someone racist?) because he/she can't actually find a real reason for being offended.

I personally like your stories, caption and obviously your fantastic photography. It seems like these people are simply trying to find any reason they can to get offended, even after you've been amazingly humble and even after you've offered to chat over coffee with then! You could have easily gotten defensive or angry, yet you took the criticism and asked for advice.

I think you are just great!

Anonymous said...

Hey fetus, Anonymous Editor here, and comment 11:12 about the usage of "humans" was not mine, btw.

I told Brandon repeatedly that his photos were amazing. It doesn't mean he's free from race issues. Sorry if I can't share your kumbaya outlook on life. I tend not to want to get coffee with people who deny racism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Editor,

Your dismissive, elitist attitude doesn't align well with the fact that you dug up an article / thread that's two years old. During which time, by the way, Brandon has found a great deal of success.

Nancy DeMarco said...

I came here because somebody shared this link in the comment thread of a Gawker article, claiming that this comment thread would show that HONY was racist. Having followed HONY for awhile, I should have known that there'd be nothing here to see.

HONY, ignore the haters, everyone who follows your work knows that you celebrate every type of person in your photography. Sorry it appears that a few jealous people are bent on making false claims about you. Anyone with a mind can see that there's no basis for these claims.

*Maria T* said...

All of these comments are ridiculous. When I first found the HONY facebook page, I spent close to an hour scrolling through each and every post, and never once saw or read anything that I would consider racist. I go to a highschool where there are many prejudices and signs of racism, and none of that can be found in the HONY captions or pictures. There are all sorts of diverse people featured on the blog, and I enjoy the pictures of dogs and babies as well. We should just enjoy the work as it is, and not read falsely into it. If someone asked me a question on the spot, I certainly wouldn't think to analyze what I say in case someone out there decided it was racist or sexist in some way. Everyone should stop being so harsh and quick to judge; we have no way in knowing what goes on in other's heads. There's my two (or three) bits.

Anonymous said...


ras said...

"Vindicated." Ha. Well, as long as you feel better about your incorrigible cynicism.

Anonymous said...

veracious ≠ cynicism

as long as you feel better about yourself being in denial