‘Humans of New York’: Changing Perceptions of Crowds One Face At A Time


Judy Lau

Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York (HONY), began taking and posting pictures of various New Yorkers in the summer of 2010. Although his website has only been around for three years, Stanton has outdone himself in revealing the vulnerable nature of his subjects.

With the world around us moving so quickly, it is easy to forget that there are real people out there with real problems. Stanton states in an interview with ABC News that many people are more willing to open up and talk to a kind stranger about their lives and struggles than to someone close to them. That statement alone shows that although we are well informed members of society, people often forget about individual issues. However, Stanton believes that “if you break the crowd into pieces and break the armor that is hidden on the outside until the honesty spills out, the city softens,” showing that there is a kinder side to people.

Just last week, Stanton had set up a campaign for a local New York family to bring home a boy named Richard from an orphanage in Ethiopia. The family needed $26,000 to bring him home; within an hour, over 1,000 strangers had donated enough money to help meet the family’s goal. The fact that so many people poured in money for a family they did not know is a personal reminder of the kindness that people are capable of giving to others—even complete strangers.

This is just one example of the kind acts that strangers provide to those in need. It shows that people are seeing strangers in a new light, and that HONY appeals to the emotional and empathetic side of humans. People want to make a difference, no matter how small, in someone else’s life. This serves as a reminder that there are good people in the world—people who care. Thousands look at Stanton’s photos and blogs on a daily basis to see the latest story and photo. HONY, as stated by one man lounging on a park bench, “is one of the only things keeping people from getting lost in the matrix.”

Originally, Stanton had planned to end his project once he had reached 10,000 photographs. However, as he continued, as stated in an interview with the Daily Beast, he found that having thousands of conversations with people in the street about their lives has evolved him because he’s absorbed their experiences and learned from them. As viewers increase and word of the project becomes stronger, it can be seen that there is slow but steady shift in the mindset of society.

Although many of the portraits are from people based in New York, in an interview with Glasscord Magazine, Stanton states that he’s “done these portraits in several cities, and does not find New Yorkers as a whole to be different from any other populace.” With this in mind, it can be shown that despite New Yorkers being the main focus, there are people who are kind and care on a global level. New Yorkers, and people in general, are seen as abrasive and uninterested on the surface. Stanton’s photos do not make people suddenly become kinder; rather, he brings out a side of them that has been hidden from those outside their immediate circle of relations.

Stanton’s HONY project is more than just a fad. It serves as a reminder to people of New York and all across America that despite the seemingly distant, cold, and unfriendly environment of a big city, people all over the world are honest and kind by nature.