Humans Make Us Feel More Human

Recently, the Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton released Humans, a photography book that documents peoples’ lives around the world. For those who do not know what Humans of New York (HONY) is, HONY is a popular Instagram account that uses photography and interviews as a medium for storytelling. The typical format is that Stanton asks people in a park or street whether they are interested to be featured on HONY. Then, Stanton asks a couple of questions so they can serve as captions in the photo.

In Humans, Stanton does an excellent job in capturing the universality of the human experience despite different ethnicities, religions, and languages. From India to Argentina, Stanton explores the entire world to document the various ups and downs of life. Some are lighthearted, others are dark, but they all encourage readers to be more understanding of others. By doing so, Stanton breaks down cultural barriers and encourages greater unity in the world.

The people that Stanton chooses to interview not only have diverse backgrounds but also have different beliefs and opinions. While some of the people’s opinions were disagreeable such as an incel justifying his actions, Stanton does not judge or stereotype these people. Instead, he portrays them as who they truly are. This attitude is also reflected in his photography. Although some of the pictures do not depict the person’s face, the way they sat and other forms of body language still conveyed their emotions. 

Another thing that Stanton does well in this book is that he encourages readers to consider different perspectives about topics such as raising children. This is not to say he wants readers to pick a side, but rather be open to other views. In fact, Stanton arranges some sections of the book in this format as the two pages are juxtapositions of a topic like religion. While I disagreed with one’s opinion about the necessity of religion to be a moral person, I still found his opinion to be interesting.

What fascinated me the most about the people in the book was their ability to be vulnerable by telling Stanton their troubles and deepest secrets. These were strangers who did not know Stanton before the interview. Whether it was drug addiction or gambling, these stories made me want to empathize with them despite not sharing their challenges. By learning about their stories, I longer viewed them under a critical eye. Another benefit of reading these stories is that I realized how grateful I was. After reading stories about people’s struggles as refugees or child soldiers, I felt embarrassed that I would complain about my life. My struggles were nothing compared to theirs.

In conclusion, Brandon Stanton inspires readers to be more curious about the ordinary people that live in their community. From words of wisdom to funny anecdotes, the book Humans shows that everyone has something worth sharing with the whole world.

Source: Vlad Hilitanu- Unsplash

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