“HONY resulted from an idea that I had to construct a photographic census of New York City. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character.
I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”
The wildly popular tumblr site now boasts a Facebook page with over 772,000 fans. The success has also led to a 304-page hardcover book that will be released on October 15, 2013. The book will feature 400 hundred color photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories.
“When my husband was dying, I said: ‘Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?’ He told me: ‘Take the love you have for me and spread it around.’”
This man was walking down the sidewalk with a rolled-up canvas strapped to his back. “I like to carry my art around with me,” he explained, “so it will soak up the energy of the city and have a heartbeat on the wall.” “Can I see it?” I asked. “Sure,” he said. “It’s a self-portrait.”
“After this I go to work at a pizza shop. My wife and I were college professors in Bangladesh. I taught accounting. But one dollar in America becomes eighty dollars when we send it back home.”
“I’m going home to see my mother.” “Oh, is it her birthday?” “Nope. I just love my mother, and she loves flowers.”
This little guy was riding on a crowded Staten Island Railroad car when he shouted: “Hey everybody! I’m three years old! And my mom is seventy years old!” Somebody on the other side of the car shouted back: “Can I get the name of mom’s lotion?”
In one of those moments that encapsulates an era, this Argentine man was captured by a New York photographer because his father was live-streaming his trip to Times Square.
“I just came back from a commencement ceremony. An old student of mine just got his Master’s Degree in Social Work. He grew up in group homes and foster care. He was a handful back when I taught him, but we never gave up on him and he never gave up on himself. And now look at him. He’s already talking about getting his doctorate. Seeing him up there in those robes— my mind is just filled up with images from today.”
My last wife was 47 years older than me.” “47 years???” “Yep. We met when she was 80 and I was 33. She came to the nursing home where I worked, and everyday she would spend six hours with her dying husband. I said to myself: ‘If she ever loves me like that, I’ll be OK.’ We married a couple years later, and stayed together until she died at the age of 96. If I had any money, I’d make a movie about it.”
“He’s twenty years old. I try to take him outside whenever I can so that he can have some new experiences before, you know…”
A glimpse into the journal of a (quite intelligent) 16 year old girl. Photographed, with permission, in Central Park.
“I just won MVP on my soccer team!”
“Is there a particular memory that represents childhood for you?” “Probably laying in bed when my parents had parties, listening to my parents’ friend play guitar downstairs, and eavesdropping on all the adults with their cocktails.” “How do you view those adults differently now that you’ve become one?” “I realize all the shit they were dealing with.”
“Is there a moment that you look back on as your ‘low point’ in Vietnam?” “Yeah. Thirty minutes before we got there. When the plane took off in New Jersey, everyone was laughing and playing cards. When it came in for a landing, the plane was dead quiet. Everyone was looking out the window and thinking about their lives.”
“Is this for Fashion Week?” “Nah, I just got out of jail. I’ve been wearing this shit for two weeks.”
“I’ve never used a cellphone or computer.”
“He plays with me.”
“We’ve been friends since we were 13.” “What’s the most fun you’ve ever had together?” “Oh, we don’t know…” “Well, what’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed together?” “Now you listen here! I want you to write down these questions you’re asking us, pull them out when you’re 85 years old, and see if you can answer them yourself!”
“I want to be an artist.” “What kind of art do you want to make?” “I want to make different versions of myself.”
I photographed the little guy on the left because he was carrying a violin. During the post photo interview, his little brother kept chiming in with his own answers. It was clear that he wanted to be part of the process. After a few questions, the older one called to his brother: “Come be in my picture, Riley.”
“What’s your favorite thing about your wife?” “She’s sexy.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A big boy.”
Behind the Lens with Brandon Stanton
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