Thursday, April 16, 2015

Humans of New York

My favorite kind of books are often those that make me think about the deep things of life: what matters the most in the short time each of us has on earth, the circumstances that can affect us all, human nature.  Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton gets me thinking about such things.

I hadn't yet heard of "HONY," so when I first picked it up, I thought it was a fashion book.  It does have significant elements of fashion, as it is full of pictures of people, however, it is more a "photographic census of New York City," as the author puts it.  Adjacent to most of the photos are a quote from the subject, or a humorous (or even, to my dismay, political) comment by Stanton.  I love that he is able to bring out the spirit and humanity of each individual simply with a photograph and a quote.  As I look at each person, I feel strangely well acquainted with them.  I feel I am glimpsing into their soul, and it is humbling.  Holding in my hands such a wide variety of people is moving as well, and brings up those sorts of questions I love pondering: how can there be so many people in the world, and yet each of us is truly unique?  Even the people most similar to us, perhaps our friends and family, have many differences.  From our worldviews to our clothes, our preferences to our dreams, not to mention our physical distinctions, each of us is so varied one from another.  And yet, these photographs remind me that we all have the desire burning somewhere inside of us to be the best we can be, to find love and connection, and to have a good life.  HONY manages to harmonize human difference and similarity in a touching yet jocular way.

Humans Of New York grew out of, first Stanton's personal Facebook posts of his photographs, then a HONY Facebook page, and finally, a blog on Tumblr.  The addition of a short interview to his photos is, in my opinion, what makes what he does so compelling.  See Stanton's daily posts continuing this work at his website, Humans of New York.

Also, check out Stanton's version of HONY for children, Little Humans. Because the text is speaking to 2 to 6 year olds, it lacks the same depth as in the adult version, but it's still really worth a look!

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