Being a photographer myself, I am always on the look out for eye-catching shots to steal ideas from. That is how, about two month ago, I landed on a Facebook page called "Humans of New York." It was maintained by one man, Brandon Stanton who walked around New York City with his camera and took portraits of strangers. His ambition: to make a photographic census of New York City. He also has his own website.
I was an instant fan. I have always wanted to take portraits of strangers on the street but could never muster the courage to ask them. Now here was a guy who spent his entire day doing that very thing. I closely followed his updates on Facebook. He uploads about three to four pictures each day, and each one tells a story. Each one is unique. All the photos in this blog post (other than the last one) are taken from Brandon's Facebook page where there are hundreds more.
As I looked at his images over the last two months, I realized a lot of things. Firstly, beauty lies in the eyes of the photographer. A good photographer can simply ask a stranger for a picture, and turn him or her into an Internet sensation overnight. Secondly, it can be said with certainty that not all the humans of New York City are muggles. Here are some examples. The gentleman on the right even has a card that says, "Jean-Louis Bourgeois, Professor of Limerick Infliction at Gotham University, A student-free university encouraging S.L.O.T.H. (Slow Luscious Opportunities Toward Happiness)"
Thirdly, I learnt that apparently unimportant strangers can be inspiring. Take a look at this lady. The text accompanying this photo says, "Unemployed librarian employs herself by collecting donated books and setting up make-shift libraries around Brooklyn."
Also, I learnt that one can never know what apparently different people may have in common. Take these two, for example. Could you ever imagine they share a passion for chess?
Speaking of diversity, Humans of New York made me feel that while we are immensely different from each other, we are also very, very similar in a way that transcends culture and race barriers. Take a look at this young man selling jokes. He reminds me of this other man I photographed at the Kolkata Book Fair in 2008. There is something so similar and so honest about their effort at making a living by selling jokes that you feel good knowing such people exist.(The bottom gentleman's sign says, "Buy for two rupees. You'll read for twenty minutes and laugh for half an hour. As you start reading, you'll start laughing. When you stop reading, you won't stop laughing.")
|New York 2012|
So here's wishing you all the best Brandon. Keep photographing the people of New York. We, the (112,325 and counting) people who like your Facebook page will keep refreshing our newsfeeds several times each day for fresh updates from you. Because we know, nobody sees the people of this city like you do, and so, nobody can show them to us like you can.
Someday, I hope, I will bump into you on one of my visits to the city and then each of us can be a subject for the other.