Leadmego

Quotes by Brandon Stanton

Quotes by Brandon Stanton

‘Humans of New York’ did not result from a flash on inspiration. It grew from five years of experimenting, tinkering, and messing up.
‘Humans of New York’ is basically somebody walking up to absolute strangers on the street every day and, within minutes, talking with them about very personal things. Some things they haven’t even told their best friends or family members.
‘Humans of New York’ wasn’t the result of a fully finished idea that I thought of and then executed; it was an evolution. There were hundreds of tiny evolutions that came from me loving photography.
A lot of the children I photograph are extremely colorfully dressed in some way. But I also find a lot of kids with outsized personalities or who happen to be doing something charming.
As an artist in the 21st century, my two goals are to make the best work that I can, improve as much as I can, and to distribute that work as far as I can.
At some point during my travels, I had a slight change of focus which would end up defining the rest of my career. I began taking pictures of people. In addition to all the buildings, street signs and fire hydrants, I started photographing some of the interesting humans that passed by me on the street.
Being a doctor, lawyer in war-torn countries isn’t easy when the infrastructure isn’t there. The money, the food and education is not always accessible to achieve those dreams.
Each time I arrived in a new city, I’d get lost in the streets and photograph everything that looked interesting, taking nearly a thousand photographs every day. After each day of shooting, I’d select 30 or 40 of my favorite photographs and post them on Facebook. I named the albums after my first impression of each city.
Everybody asks, ‘What does ‘Humans of New York’ mean?’ and I always say that I try to avoid putting any kind of message in the work even if it is a positive or optimistic message. The moment you do that, you’re looking for certain people and words that fit into the world view you are trying to show, and it becomes preachy.
Fortunately, I’ve done so many interviews that I’ve become very good at detecting when someone is giving a less-than-candid reply.
I always say that my favorite people to interview are the people who are at the beginning and the ends of their lives because they have two alternate perspectives of the world, and neither of them are less profound.
I am a huge fan of biographies. What I’m always looking for is a story. I want a story I have never heard from anyone else.
I am interviewing people with a spirit of genuine interest and compassion, and therefore, the general tone of the site is one of genuine interest and compassion. The moment that culture changes, ‘Humans of New York’ is no longer viable.
I didn’t actually begin photographing, or even visit New York, for the first time until I was 26.
I don’t like to interview people in front of their friends; they clam up.
I don’t think there’s any better education than learning the intimate details of the lives of people who you most admire.
I don’t want to interview people for the purpose of developing a world view and pushing that on people.
I know I have a caption that I’m going to use when somebody tells me something I’ve never heard before. It’s very rarely a thought, a philosophy, when somebody says, ‘Oh, I don’t like cheese’ or ‘Oh, I think the government should be overthrown,’ because so many people share these thoughts. But what people don’t share is stories.
I never buy plane tickets out of a country until I’m in the country, so I get on the ground, figure out what I need, where I’m going, how much time I need, and schedule as I go along.
I never know what kind of people I’ll meet just by stopping to take a photo.
I struck upon this kind of crazy idea that I was going to go to New York and stop 10,000 people on the streets and take their portrait and create kind of a photographic census of the city.
I think everyone feels alone in their sadness, and there’s a certain value to hearing other people’s sad stories.
I think it’s important to try to get on a kid’s level when taking their photo.
I think that even though some of the things on ‘Humans of New York’ are kind of very personal and very revealing, I think the discomfort with sharing that tends to be overwritten by the appreciation of being able to distill the experience of your life into a story and share it with other people.
I was making projections about ‘Humans of New York,’ back when I had zero followers, that made all my friends and family roll their eyes. I’d throw out these huge numbers: ‘One day, a million people are gonna be looking at this. Trust me.’ And even those wild, wild numbers I was throwing out have just been smashed. So, it’s a good feeling.
I’m a believer in the ordinary person, that the ordinary person is just as important and has an equally unique perspective on the world as someone who is famous or perhaps more privileged.
I’m not even really attempting to brand myself outside of ‘Humans of New York.’ I think part of the reason for my success is that I’ve put my ego aside and said I’m not going to put all of my effort into trying to promote myself. I’m going to try to promote my work and am going to try to promote my project.
I’ve always felt like an artistic person. I can’t draw or paint or sculpt. I never really had technical skills, but I’ve always felt like I appreciate really beautiful things, and part of taking a good photograph is being able to recognize beauty.
I’ve done commercial work for Amtrak. However, that was branded as Stanton. I stipulated at the very beginning that it was not going to involve ‘Humans of New York,’ that I wasn’t going to promote it on ‘Humans of New York.’ So nobody who follows me really even knows that I did it.
I’ve got 50,000 Facebook fans inside of Iran, and Facebook is banned in Iran. I think the people who follow ‘Humans of New York’ the most after New York City is Tehran. I have a really special affection for the Persian people because they’ve really taken to my work.
I’ve taken pictures in at least 14 countries, and nowhere have people told me ‘no’ more than New York City.
If I had sat around and waited until I had an idea to be a successful photographer, I would still be in finance.
In July of 2010, I lost my finance job in Chicago. Instead of updating my resume and looking for a similar job, I decided to forget about money and have a go at something I truly enjoyed. I’d purchased a semi-professional camera earlier that year and spent my free time taking photos in downtown Chicago.
Interviewing someone is a very proactive process and requires taking a lot of agency into your own hands to get past people’s general normal self-preservation mode.
It seems that everywhere I go, people want the same things – security, education, family. It’s just that so many people have no avenues through which to obtain these things.
It’s a very immersive and intense form of travel to walk around with an interpreter and stop random people on the street and ask them about their lives.
It’s such a different spectrum of tragedies when you talk to people in developing countries.
It’s the rejection that is hard. It’s not the interviewing that’s hard. It’s not the photography that’s hard. It’s, you know, approaching people all day long and having a good portion of those people reject you and some of them be rude.
My interviews are very pointed. I’m an active participant; I will kindly interrupt people. But I’ve learned there is nothing people won’t tell you if you ask in a compassionate and legitimately interested way.
My two biggest lessons learned as a trader are take risks and get comfortable with taking losses and setbacks to help move you forward.
New York has the biggest, most eclectic collection of people in the world.
Of all the places I’ve been, India is the one that’s on the top of my list to return to.
Social media is a superimposing place where people are usually bragging.
Somebody’s willingness to let me photograph them, and willingness to tell me a story, has nothing to do with the words I say. It all has to do with the energy I’m giving off, which hopefully is very genuine, very interested energy. It’s just two people having a conversation in the street. I think that’s where genuine content comes from.
The interviews have gotten much longer with ‘Humans of New York.’ When I was first starting, I was just photographing people. And then I went to just kind of including a quote or two. Now when I’m approaching somebody on the street, I’m spending about 30 to 45 minutes with them often.
The media chooses to portray the most extreme and violent aspects of a place. I do the opposite and portray the normality.
The most pivotal moments in people’s lives revolve around emotions. Emotions make stories powerful.
The only things I make money on are speeches and books.
When I first started ‘Humans of New York,’ I was writing short stories. There were about 50 of them. And, you know, they were a great part of the site, but the photography just started growing so fast that I didn’t have time to make them anymore.
When I meet somebody in the street who knows about ‘Humans of New York,’ a lot of times they might have a scripted answer, and that scripted answer is the first thing to come out of their mouth.
When you are interviewing refugees, each person you talk to has a different story that could come from a horror movie. So many people talk about seeing their families get murdered before their eyes. Then I go to Central Park, and people are talking about their third divorce and paying tuition.
Whenever you get a large body of work like ‘Humans of New York,’ a natural pathway becomes to put it between two covers. I wanted this to be a very nice keepsake. A lot of work went into it, and a lot of fans are attached to it.
Wherever I go, I just try to show normal life. If the work helps to dispel stereotypes, it’s because I seek not to portray the extremities of a place, but the vast majority of people who are quite normal and are having normal life experiences.
Without social media, I’d probably just be a quirky, amateur photographer with a hard drive full of photos. I’d be cold calling respected publications, begging for a feature.
You know you are an artist if you appreciate beauty.

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