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Humans of New York: Behind the scenes with Brandon Stanton

By dpreview staff on Feb 9, 2014 at 06:00 GMT

Photographer Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York project has been around for a few years now and has been featured in media quite a bit. The latest video of Stanton, made for Facebook's 10th anniversary, is a revealing look at how he interacts with his subjects.   

He's jovial. He's conversational. But most of all, he's human – and it shows through in his images. Stanton's able to make total strangers comfortable and open to the idea of having their picture taken. 

After being laid off from his Chicago bond trading job, he moved to New York in 2010 to pursue photography. He began to take street portraits of the people he met and shared them in an album on his Facebook timeline named, Humans of New York. Since then, his photographs have gained worldwide popularity, spawned copycat projects, and produced a best-selling book

What do you think of Stanton's style of working? 

Via: fstoppers, Source: Brandon Stanton

Comments

Total comments: 64
CollBaxter
By CollBaxter (3 weeks ago)

Wonderful approach to life and people and great natural photos.

0 upvotes
rottenbull
By rottenbull (2 months ago)

I do like this guy,and what he's doing.
The video was,somewhat,a FB self ad.

0 upvotes
pfzt
By pfzt (2 months ago)

there seem to be a lot of those sites out there nowadays but i have to say that HONY is still the best. he is the best photographer and most important, the best storyteller of them all. unfortunately most of the people on the facebook comment section are unable to cope with the storys of drug addicts, unemployed, divorcees, widows, disabled people or any other kind of damaged people. they act like sentimental fools, mercyless a**holes or morons. the comment section there is a very dark place, but then again most of the internet comment sections are.

1 upvote
Puddleglum
By Puddleglum (2 months ago)

I like the ideas of having a little snippet of conversation / background about the person, it's a neat project. But honestly I was not blown away by the photos themselves. I couldn't help but compare them to a Flickr stream I recently stumbled across, if you like street portraits check this guy's work out:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mannequin-/sets/72157627694007165/

(I am not the owner of that stream, nor do I know them)

0 upvotes
RPJG
By RPJG (2 months ago)

This is meant to be a photography site, right?

Yet whilst an average new camera or lens can generate 100s of idiotic fan-boy replies, an article about a marvellous exponent of what we're supposedly all here for - photography! - merits less than 50 comments.

What a sad lot we collectively are.

4 upvotes
Michael Ma
By Michael Ma (2 months ago)

Did something give you the impression that Dpreview was a photography site?

Dpreview was and still is a site for reviews of digital cameras. Articles related to new hardware make up for ~90% of their content. People who've come to expect this type of content within the last ~10 years of operation return regularly. That is the audience that they've built. Dpreview being a content provider, when they stray from their audience it hurts their affiliate/ad revenue and they have a drop in readership.

Dpreview is slowly trying to become more well rounded in their content related to photography. In the future, you will probably see more engagement of these types of articles.

I would certainly like more photography related content. But you're not going to win any approval from the majority of the visitors here by calling them "sad".

5 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (2 months ago)

Michael Ma:
I think your assessment of the history (and current expectation) of the site being largely technology-based is correct. Recently, it does seem that DPR is making an effort to add content that demonstrates some artistic potentials/outcomes of such technology; I agree with you that this is generally a positive addition. Unfortunately, much recent commentary (addressing other articles) has led to many thinking such art examples come at the expense of other more technological content. This is simply untrue. And many, I suspect, do like to see a diversity of content, including featuring photographers, their craft and ideas - this has been demonstrated in a respectable number of comments posted on other such articles. Both positive and negative comments, have constituted some good dialog that hopefully has been helpful in members reflecting upon their own photographic methods and ideas. RPJG, I don't interpret it as sad that this particular article has not elicited much of a response because other features about individual photographers have. And, this is a trend that will likely continue.

1 upvote
RPJG
By RPJG (2 months ago)

Fair point Michael. Still, the comments section here is generally a depressing place.

4 upvotes
elefteriadis alexandros
By elefteriadis alexandros (2 months ago)

-I am for 35 years professional photographer and for 20 years i shot with Nikon f3 and mamyia 645 without change anything.
-Today every 3-4 years anyone ho want to stay in game have to pay the company and change the equipments...
-But for company and marketing even this is not enough... they destroy the art of photography and make them boring just because they wont to look easy for everyone so everyone ''deserve'' a camera...
-Well all that people maybe is ok for communicate with strangers in the street and thats fine, but its not a talent photographer and here its a photographic site not an oprah show...

1 upvote
vFunct
By vFunct (2 months ago)

The best kind of photography are street photography, like this guys.

The worst kind of photography are the garbage you see on 500px. That site is filled with thousands of photographer, all without a sense of taste.

The funny part is that those idiots have NO clue why they are terrible, or why street photography is more valuable than landscape photography. They have no idea how worthless their photographs are.

Remember, if you think the landscape photography you find at 500px is good, you are a terrible photographer, and you should be ashamed.

Professionals laugh at you, just to let you know.

1 upvote
LWW
By LWW (2 months ago)

Having a bad day D Funct?

11 upvotes
speculatrix
By speculatrix (2 months ago)

Please post a link to your online gallery so we can see your photos you deem to be worthy

2 upvotes
splendic
By splendic (2 months ago)

Ha! The self-proclaimed judge of all that is photographically valuable weighs in!

You must realize that as a whole, the masses find landscape photography just as, if not more, moving and spectacular as "street photography," right?

Go show your best street shots to ALLLL those folks that live out in nature, and see what they think!

1 upvote
CollBaxter
By CollBaxter (3 weeks ago)

Oh Hell another faceless nameless , gallery less person that lives in the cloud. Professing to be the judge good photography taste etc.

OK I shoot nature stuff and you comments offend me. I don't hide behind snaky comments . So maybe you should put up links to your stuff . Put up of shut up.

Maybe you need to get out from under your trench coat and pork pie hat and go out into the country to sniff some real fresh air.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
piratejabez
By piratejabez (2 months ago)

If you like Humans of New York, you ight also like Souls of San Francisco: http://soulsofsanfrancisco.com/

1 upvote
pfzt
By pfzt (2 months ago)

thank you!

0 upvotes
grock
By grock (2 months ago)

I used to think the comments on indie music blogs were the worst, but photography websites are really catching up. So much freaking jealousy and pettiness. So many people here can't stand it if someone is successful if they have what are deemed to be less than perfect technical skills with a camera, or if their composition seems amateurish or non-groundbreaking. Photography exists so that people can look at and enjoy photographs. Guess what? If someone enjoys looking at a photo you took, you succeeded. Nothing else--the brand and cost of your camera, the artistic merit, the people paying for the photo, the post-processing, the lack of preparation, etc-- matters.

25 upvotes
Just Ed
By Just Ed (2 months ago)

Well said!

1 upvote
mister_roboto
By mister_roboto (2 months ago)

Indeed! I come to DPR less and less (and most photo sites in general) because of that. Or if anything- I come to read DPR's reviews and have to stop myself from reading any comments on anything.

5 upvotes
vFunct
By vFunct (2 months ago)

In general, amateur photographers are the absolute worst.

Nothing they ever say should be respected. If they were capable at all, they wouldn't be amateurs.

These are the same idiots that think mirror less cameras are useful.

Anyone that owns a mirror less camera should automatically have a "I'm an idiot" badge on their forehead.

0 upvotes
khunfred
By khunfred (2 months ago)

Being successfull has no direct link with quality of your photographies. Being a professional doesn't mean you are an artist: it means you earn money from your job because you answer to a market. It's a big difference between art and business. It's a fact that communicating your work has became often more important than the quality of your work itself. That said, everyone, amateur or professional, can criticize any work.

9 upvotes
speculatrix
By speculatrix (2 months ago)

You're a sad troll. Very very few photographers are so gifted they can earn a good living from their photos. I know many such who w Ireen on other professions earning good money, and they devote a large amount of enjoyable time to their hobby.
Otoh, I know some pros who are good yet not famous who have to with very hard to make a living and it can be burden to them

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (2 months ago)

Whatever you think of this guy's photos, he knows how to promote himself and if you're idea of success is to get paid for doing what you would typically do for free, marketing matters.

0 upvotes
TheDreamingWatchman
By TheDreamingWatchman (2 months ago)

@vFunct:
Congratulation! This may well be the stupidest posting of the months.

1 upvote
ianp5a
By ianp5a (2 months ago)

That was a sneaky advert from a big corporation. DPReview.drops in my estimation a bit if they don't make it clear to loyal supporters,

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
John Vicksburg
By John Vicksburg (2 months ago)

Are you serious?

8 upvotes
AlpCns2
By AlpCns2 (2 months ago)

If it was a little corporation, it would be less sneaky? The *fact* is that he is using this "horrible" corporation, which is part of his success formula - and therefore highly relevant.

If "loyal supporters" cannot be loyal because the subject of the story is using a (big or not) corporation for his/her success, then there is something wrong with those "supporters", not the successful photographer or the messenger.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
grock
By grock (2 months ago)

Are you just trolling now? They mention that the video was made for Facebook in the second sentence of the first paragraph? That's not head's up for you? Are you so offended by big corporations? Did you make your camera yourself?
This guy made a name for himself THROUGH FACEBOOK. Should that just be glossed over or omitted?

3 upvotes
marco roman
By marco roman (2 months ago)

Some comments here are just ridiculous. This guy is doing something that he likes, and he is getting some recognition for it. Then which are the comments? That he should engage with his family. Next step he is unfavourably compared to Cartier-Bresson. It's like a soccer player goes for first season and he is compared to Pele. Good job mate, your photography is good and is about real people, not "experts" behind a computer screen.

20 upvotes
Just Ed
By Just Ed (2 months ago)

I think the point is that Brandon has found a way to share his passion with others and they are responding favorably!, as do I!

People have been taking great pictures since the medium was invented.
Getting them before the publics' eye is the age old problem

Thanks for a nice Sunday DP!!! It is refreshing to see a well done video and stills
rather than the usual talkie talk about what gear is the latest and greatest.

8 upvotes
sgtsween
By sgtsween (2 months ago)

The images are nothing ground breaking, but paired with the quotes and snippets of insight into the subjects it works. At least for me. Good for Brandon!

4 upvotes
b11nd
By b11nd (2 months ago)

On one hand I really like his approach: engaging conversation with people, collecting a nice sample of individual histories, etc. Nie collection. But, on the other, I hardly see the photographic work. The strength of this project is in the quotation accompanying each pictures. The pictures are not really informative, or even strong actually (personal opinion of course, but this looks to me mandatory to speak of photography). But for this, I guess you need to spend more time with these people, and really learn to know them, go into their place, etc. Well, ok, different story.

1 upvote
mr moonlight
By mr moonlight (2 months ago)

What's wrong with a caption? Without captions, many great photos would have so much less meaning. Neil Armstrong's boot print would just be a bad photo of a boot print. Instead, it's one of the most iconic and recognizable images in history. There's a lot of photos of atomic bomb blasts and many look quite similar, but only one has the caption "8-6-1945". This book hardly contains images of such historical importance, but I don't think a photo that requires a caption makes it any less of a photograph.

2 upvotes
Charles Bittinger
By Charles Bittinger (2 months ago)

Great little documentary.

6 upvotes
elefteriadis alexandros
By elefteriadis alexandros (2 months ago)

-Interesting approach and engage strangers, but nothing special from the point of composition, i miss the old good street photographers like Cartier-Bresson. Maybe the easy way of digital photography make the people to stop think of the right time and angle of view.

1 upvote
wudyi
By wudyi (2 months ago)

I'm not sure what value this guy is producing in the pictures part? It's honorable to be nice to people on the street and to get to know them, but if it's just so you can snap their picture I'm failing to see the point. As well, the process and the output are so common and blase' it's actually embarrassing. And this guy gave up a good career for this? I suppose you can do that if you're young and single. It helps that he looks like a linebacker, too, so he doesn't get mugged. And, of course, this guys approach is preferable to the sneaky, wannabe street photog. hiding behind a wall to snap a picture of your granddaughter! What creeps!

I don't get this whole street photography thing. Why be so interested in strangers? Why not form real friendships and nurture the one's you already have. Forget about your dumb dog and your street shooting and go connect with your wife and kids.

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
Ocolon
By Ocolon (2 months ago)

… not sure why you’re wasting your time for writing comments here instead of going to connect with your wife and kids? Why write all this for strangers to read instead of nurturing your real friendships? ;-)

14 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (2 months ago)

I agree with much of the opinion by posters that Stanton's work is more about positive interaction than it is about the photos themselves. But, although not groundbreaking, they do demonstrate a connectivity to and respect for subject, in contrast to other street work that is more removed.

The second paragraph of your comment is a bit absurd. Why would this work be assumed to come at the expense of nurturing relationships with family and friends? These activities are hardly mutually exclusive. In fact, his street work might potentially lend positive perspective that might inform all his relationships.

2 upvotes
grock
By grock (2 months ago)

I totally get it. I mean, why be so interested in, say, taking photos of bowls of fruit? Why not just go to the fridge and eat the fruit you have? Why go to different places to take pictures? Why not just keep photographing the inside of your house?

3 upvotes
vFunct
By vFunct (2 months ago)

You don't get it because you do not have a sense of taste.

Professionals with senses of taste have already decided what is right and wrong. Their opinion matters. Your opinion is irrelevant.

My recommendation to you is to figure out why street photography is better than what you like. Once you're on the same page, you can become useful as a photographer.

Life isn't about what you like. It is about what higher ups have decided for you.

0 upvotes
MandoBear
By MandoBear (2 months ago)

Your really believe that..?

I mean, really?

0 upvotes
edu T
By edu T (2 months ago)

It's fascinating, how many approaches there can be to street photography. Compare Stanton's M.O. to the, say, "blitzy" style of Magnum's Bruce Gilden. Exact opposites, maybe?
(Gilden as seen by Eric Kim: erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/08/24/5-lessons-bruce-gilden-has-taught-me-about-street-photography ; Gilden himself in action: youtube.com/watch?v=IRBARi09je8 )

1 upvote
Marty4650
By Marty4650 (2 months ago)

Stanton has brought a new element to the equation, something much more powerful than better gear or photographic skill.

He brings empathy, personality, and a genuine affection for his subjects that make his portraits so meaningful.

This is so much better than those stealth street photographers who take photos of homeless people with telephoto lenses. Stanton walks right up to them, engages them, and listens to their stories.

This man is a real artist.

31 upvotes
Kid Plutonium
By Kid Plutonium (2 months ago)

I like his sense of humanity; if you live in a city then you'll know how disconnected we are from each other. That said, I wouldn't go as far as calling him a 'real artist'.

3 upvotes
khunfred
By khunfred (2 months ago)

Nothing new. He's on the same way than many photographers before him. I' m not sure the results are really original or amazing from a strictly photographic point of view. No creation, no tranposition. I agree with reginaldwald: his use of social medias makes the difference.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 57 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
G1Houston
By G1Houston (2 months ago)

Agree.

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (2 months ago)

I agree, but if it was 1940 and you were Walker Evans, hiding your camera in a coat, snapping photos of people, on the subway (without their knowledge) it would be considered great work and end up in the Museum of Modern Art.

0 upvotes
webrunner5
By webrunner5 (2 months ago)

I envy his ability to just go up to someone and make it happen. I sort of do the sneak and shoot thingy lol. Great gift he has.

7 upvotes
UnitedNations
By UnitedNations (2 months ago)

Is this guy using a 50mm lens?

0 upvotes
SirSeth
By SirSeth (2 months ago)

I would like to learn how to approach and engage strangers in a way that makes them feel comfortable. It looks like this guy thrives on that and my hat is off to him. I'm not sure he even sees strangers when he goes out. A gift of his personality.

14 upvotes
Gunnlaugur Gudmundsson
By Gunnlaugur Gudmundsson (2 months ago)

Very interesting, thank you...

3 upvotes
venancio
By venancio (2 months ago)

Like. Super like. Very refreshing to read about photographers and see great pictures with no one laying their foot about noise or exposure or unsharp corners, maybe because there's none, or maybe because one is just carried away by the emotion of the moment, or just maybe blown away. It didn't even bother me that he was using Canon, not Nikon or Fuji. Yeah, Fred Miranda proved a long time ago that Canon can also do the job. Just goes to show one can find the heart of the image in any good, and well thought out picture.

1 upvote
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (2 months ago)

Stanton is able to connect emotionally with passersby and befriend them before snapping their photo. His success as a street photographer to have his subjects at ease is no different than what thousands of other photographers do on a daily basis in the studio.

What makes him name-worthy is his use of social media's largest platform and addition of quotes from his subjects in America's most populous city to enhance their portraits to give them a human interest angle.

7 upvotes
khunfred
By khunfred (2 months ago)

Success needs 25% of skills and 75% of communication.

6 upvotes
khunfred
By khunfred (2 months ago)

When I look at a photography, I can immediatly know if it has been "stolen" from the subject, or "shared" with the subject. That's a huge difference. My preferences always go to the second "school" of street photography.That said, I am not sufficiently educated to know whether Mr Stanton's works have "something more" than thousands of others.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Kid Plutonium
By Kid Plutonium (2 months ago)

Help me out here, I don't understand what you mean. What's the "it" which may or may not have been stolen?

0 upvotes
Ocolon
By Ocolon (2 months ago)

The image of the photographed person is "stolen". I assume you're hinting at the fact that this is not what stealing means, as nothing material is taken away from the photographed person. That’s true. I guess khunfred is aware of this, and this is probably the reason why he put the word in quotation marks. Translate "stolen" with "taken without permission" and it applies perfectly.

1 upvote
Kid Plutonium
By Kid Plutonium (2 months ago)

@Ocolon,
I wonder how many of the photographs we call great or iconic were taken with 'permission'. You see a moment, a composition and then what, you ask if it's all right to take a picture? I think not.

3 upvotes
Ocolon
By Ocolon (2 months ago)

Kid Plutonium, just to be clear: I didn’t mean to be judgmental. I only wanted to point out that we don’t need to interpret the word "stolen" literally.

But as you ask – I’m from Germany. The legal situation is different here from, say, the United States. I could indeed get into trouble when publishing a portrait without the permission of the person in the photo, unless we’re talking about "high-profile people" where the broad public’s legitimate interest is weighted higher than the persons right not to have here picture spread. I don’t need to get the permission in advance, but I might have better chances to get it when asking beforehand instead of after taking a portrait. Which approach makes more sense can depend on the situation.

Personally, I’m okay with photos being taken without prior permission. But I’m also happy to have the choice whether my picture is published …

0 upvotes
Ocolon
By Ocolon (2 months ago)

… I probably would not agree with publishing a photograph of me when the photographer startled me by jumping in my way, sticking a camera in my face and firing the flash.

0 upvotes
lester11
By lester11 (2 months ago)

"Spurred", not "spurned" copycat projects...

1 upvote
rogdp
By rogdp (2 months ago)

Closer - I think they mean 'spawned' - as in tadpoles.

2 upvotes
Alan2dpreview
By Alan2dpreview (2 months ago)

He knows how to connect with people. First. He has simpatico. It then comes out in his pictures.

Check his actual blog to see the writing regarding the pictures. It's more involved than what you see in the above video.
http://www.humansofnewyork.com/

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
1 upvote
94
By 94 (2 months ago)

So he talks a little to someone, and then takes a blase' snapshot. I know there are people who would insist that the work constitutes art in a facebook kind of way.

.....to one comment above: I've tried, but can't find the mirror in my Leica 3b, and never saw one in the 4"x5" Graflex I inherited or the old one I bought at a flea market because it was so all brass-and-wood pretty. All those years ago my cameras were worthless for being mirrorless? I hope I'm saved by virtue of using a Canon FTb for so many years.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 64