As I was looking at John Thomson’s photographs of Victorian street life, I couldn’t help connecting these photographs with the ones I had seen numerous times on a photoblog popularized by its Facebook page that always seemed to be popping up on my news feed. The page is called Humans of New York and I’m sure most people have heard of it in some way since it started back in 2010. That, or they’ve heard of one of its many spin-offs. I’m pretty sure there’s even a Humans of Mount Holyoke page on Facebook now.
Brandon Stanton is the guy who started the blog. In his senior year of college at the University of Georgia, a $3,000 bet that Barack Obama would win the presidential election in 2008 led to a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade. When things started to go wrong and he lost his job, he decided to move to New York City and take pictures of strangers on the street. What originally began as a project cataloging the inhabitants of New York City turned into something much more when he started to interview the people he photographed.
What made me make the connection between John Thomson’s photographs and Brandon Stanton’s blog was not just the fact that both of them took photographs of people on the city streets. It was more that they both had stories to go along with the photographs that they took. Instead of just looking at a photograph and wondering who the people are, we are given further insight into their lives and what happened before the photograph was taken.
While the Humans of New York stories and interviews may not directly relate to the person being photographed, they usually make you stop and really think about what the person has to say or what they’re going through. Most of the time the captions are vague, just a sneak peek into a stranger’s life. But oftentimes these snippets reveal a lot about the person’s character and guides you further in trying to explain what is happening within the photograph. They give you enough information to be intriguing, yet leave much of the story to your imagination which is what I think really makes them popular. It is really fascinating to me that even spanning centuries and countries, there are still similarities in these two photographer’s works despite how different they truly are.
Here are a few interesting Humans of New York photographs that I found while browsing the website.
And my personal favorite:
All information and photographs found here: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/