Interesting Independent Internet Projects: Humans of New York

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By Claire Frank

When asking for ideas for future updates of this column, someone mentioned Humans of New York (HONY). I had never heard of it, so I tucked the idea away for consideration. When I finally looked up HONY, I was directed to a Tumblr blog full of high resolution photos. Curious, I started clicking on posts. Next thing I knew, an hour had passed.

Humans of New York is a New York City-based photography blog run by Brandon Stanton. After losing his job in Chicago in 2010, Stanton moved to NYC and started taking photographs of strangers on the streets. His original goal was to organize the photos based on the neighborhoods they were taken in, but he simplified it by taking photos randomly rather than based on location. After receiving permission to photograph somebody, Stanton engages in light conversation with his subject in order to find short quotes to run along with his photographs.

That may sound boring on paper, but it is oddly fascinating. Each photograph is unique; they show content you wouldn’t ordinarily notice while walking down the street.

The people in the photos aren’t cookiecutter either. The differences in style are apparent and hard to look away from. People of every gender, age, race, and class are featured and show such a sharp contrast when they are placed next to each other. One photo could show a nicely dressed American businessman in a suit and tie, the one next to it could be a nun, and the after that could be a homeless person with a sign begging for money.

The best part of it: all of the subjects seem genuinely happy to have the photo taken. While some are more serious than others, there is nothing insincere about any of the subjects. Stanton’s photographs are gorgeous and portray each person in the best light possible, with simple captions and quotes that help rather than undermine the purpose of the photo.

The blog currently holds over 5,000 portraits of strangers in NYC, boasts of over 2 million likes on its Facebook page and close to a million followers on Tumblr, and has been so successful that Stanton recently printed a 400-page book titled Humans of New York, which features popular photos from the blog and has become a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

Link to Humans of New York: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/