“Eight Million Stories”: Humans of New York Project
“There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” – From The Naked City
In 2010, Brandon Stanton lost his job as a trader in Chicago. Despite his mother’s objections, Stanton moved to New York City to pursue the latest thing with which he had become “borderline-obsessed“: photography.
At first, Stanton was only snapping pictures of the city’s residents. His original goal was simply “to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map.” But after a few months, Stanton began adding captions and commentary to the photographs. “Taken together,” the photographer explains, “these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”
In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald called New York City the “wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” Some eighty-eight years later, it still holds all that mystery and beauty, and through his lens and careful attention, Stanton helps develop those stories in colorful resolution.
The following are just a few of my favorite images and stories. Follow Humans of New York here.
I found these two in Central Park. After I took their photo, I began to ask Dad some questions, but ended up getting some perfectly valid, yet generic responses:
“What was your happiest moment?”
“When my daughters were born.”
“What’s the proudest you’ve been of your daughter?”
“I’m always proud.”
“What was the saddest moment of your life?”
“I’d rather not say.”
After a few more attempts, I resigned myself to the fact that the man wasn’t going to reveal any details about his life. His reserve was perfectly understandable, but I left a bit downtrodden. Because I loved the photo and was hoping to pair it with a great caption. When I got home, there was an email in my inbox:
I saw you in Central Park this evening with my daughter (red head). You asked me about my happiest day – I told you when my daughters were born (I meant it). You asked me what the saddest day in my life was – i told you I’d rather not answer. Well, it was Aug 12, 2006 – on that day, my wife and I lost our first baby – she was 36 weeks pregnant (his name was Peter). It was horrible. But now we have 2 beautiful little girls, so Im grateful. The reason I was unable to provide a specific answer to questions about my happiest day or what makes me proud about my girls – because everything does. Thank you.
“I’m an artist. I paint murals.”
“What would you say to a young artist?”
“Fuck the rules.”
This man was cruising through Central Park, while his dog jogged out in front of him. “They keep trying to give us tickets,” said the man, “So I taught him a trick. Watch this.”
He shouted: “Police!”
And the dog jumped up on the scooter.
“She does her thing, I do my thing. We interact in between. We’ve been married 30 years, and that’s how we like it.”
The girl on the right told me she wanted to be a veterinarian. Then, almost as an afterthought, she threw in— “Also, the President of America.” Charmed by her extremely ambitious postscript, I chuckled a bit.”What are you laughing at?” said Dad.
“What are you reading?”
“Rimbaud. He’s a 19th Century French poet that turned romanticism on its head. Before him, poets tended to associate nature with order and harmony, and extended that to man. He was the first to really describe nature and man as chaotic and unpredictable. He was especially good at expressing teenage angst.”
“OK, I’ll give you 60 seconds to find a passage that demonstrates what you just said.”
Here’s what he chose: The wolf howled under the leaves / And spit out the prettiest feathers / Of his meal of fowl: / Like him I consume myself.
She agreed to a photograph, but seemed a bit uneasy about the whole “being interviewed by a stranger” thing. I really liked the photo, so I kept trying questions, hoping to strike on one she felt comfortable answering— but no luck. Eventually she said: “This feels like a really bad date.”
“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?”
“Stay away from large groups of people.”
“What’s your favorite thing about your dad?”
“He works really hard outside. But after that, he still rides bikes with me.”
“You know the scariest drug I ever did?”
“Sobriety. I tried that shit, and suddenly I realized that my girlfriend was insane and all my friends were assholes.”