Have you ever thought that New York has the most interesting people? You're not alone. Photographer Brandon Stanton recently started a blog with the specific purpose of highlighting the humans of New York. A former bond trader from Chicago, Stanton gave up his career to move to New York. He says the project has helped him acclimate: “I think my unfamiliarity with the city helps the project, actually. I'm constantly being told the type of people I should be photographing if I really want to capture 'New York.' New York to me is what passes me on the street everyday.” And he claims that we aren’t that rude after all. (Thank you!)
Brandon has had the opportunity to photograph 1,723 people so far (including Barack Obama, Anna Wintour and that random guy who lives down the street). Wondering how I can possibly make it onto his site, I decided to ask Brandon a few questions:
Fashionista: What is it about New York (and its residents) that interests you? Brandon Stanton: The obvious answer is the amount of people. I went back to Chicago a couple months back to do some portraits, and I just remember thinking how empty the sidewalks were. It was like going from football to golf. Chicago is about as beautiful a city as there is, but I enjoy the rush and excitement of New York. A lot of people hate New York because it's so crowded. But whenever somebody steps on my foot in a packed subway, I remind myself that the excitement has trade-offs.
How does someone meet your criteria for being “interesting”? I've always said that I photograph whoever I find "interesting," and I've gotten a surprising amount of flak for choosing that word.
Some people think it devalues the people I choose not to photograph. But I stand by it. I can’t photograph everyone. So anyone who interests me, for any reason, I approach. Could be anything. My photographs are very diverse. There may be a few more beautiful women than necessary, but I mix it up pretty well. What are your favorite places in New York to photograph people? Probably my neighborhood--Bedford Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn. There is so much diversity. I wake up every morning to the call to prayer at the corner mosque. My favorite place to eat is a Trinidad Roti Shop. The neighborhood is filled with immigrants. It's a bit like the United Nations, minus any country currently on the Security Council. Who is the most interesting person you have photographed so far? That is really difficult to say. Some stories are hilarious and some are sad and some are inspiring. And I'm sure the most interesting stories were the ones I didn't learn. The people in my stories were only the ones that I had an opportunity to spend time with. I'm sure somewhere in my 1,700 photos is a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, and I didn't even realize it. Have any people turned you down? At first, almost everyone. But I've gotten much, much better. Now very few people turn me down in Manhattan. In some of the other boroughs, I have to work a lot harder for the portraits I collect. But often the portraits from tougher neighborhoods are the ones I value the most. Where do you see this project going? My perception of the project is constantly evolving. When I began, I wanted 10,000 photos. I wanted to plot them all on a map. Pretty simple. But more and more, I started talking with the people I was photographing and writing about the stories. So my focus has really shifted from making this map, to telling these stories in a way that allows people to connect with the strangers around them. I think Humans of New York will be around for a long, long time. And yes, eventually there will be a map.