Humans of New York

Humans of New York
© 2013 Brandon Stanton
304 pages

If you ever needed proof that a picture is worth a thousand words, consider one shot near the end of this volume. The scene is a New York city street. A young man — a tall, strapping Marine in full dress uniform — and his tearful mother stand close together, staring at something off-camera. The caption? 9/11/2011. There is a story in that shot that we can guess at, of a father who fell, of another young man who is now following his father’s footsteps in the wars that followed from that date ten years before. Humans of New York is saturated with stories like that, but most of them are more joyful than tragic. The book opens with the photographer/editor’s own story, of how he left his job as a daytrader and began a photographic tour of the United States, where he quickly felt irresistibly drawn to the people who filled urban landscapes rather than the landscapes themselves. These photos, originally posted to his facebook group, developed a life and following of their own. The collection here shows off New York’s enormous diversity, spotlighting little babies offering toothless smiles and old men offering advice. Stanton’s eye gravitates toward ‘characters’ — people who dress or move in eccentric fashion, or who have a story to tell. Each photo has a caption, most of which add significantly to the story — and testifying to Stanton’s ever watchful eye as a photographer, as he often caught moments that were utterly fleeting. Every single one of these photos is striking in some way — often for the fashion and hairstyles, or for the setting, but more often than not for the people — caught in their feelings. Stanton sometimes took candid shots, but many of these are the result of people he’d stopped on the street and talked to, and ‘posed’ in some way — not just physically, but emotionally. In one shot, for instance, he asked a young dancer to put all of his energy into the greatest move ever, and that intensity is captured here. It’s a beautiful volume, a human mosaic full of beauty, creativity, and passion.

This video reminds me of the book.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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