This book really needs no introduction. Stanton photographs people in NYC (and elsewhere when traveling) and asks them questions. The last Humans of New York book I read contained mostly photos, where as this one was photos paired with the stories of the people in them. Hence the title.
I first came across HoNY quite a long time ago, and have been following Stanton’s photographic journey via facebook and instagram ever since. He posts often, and I miss a lot, so reading this book was a fun little mix of stories I’ve already experienced and brand new ones to me. I enjoyed the reading so much, picking the book up here and there to read a couple stories at a time and spread the experience out. Stanton has a wonderful eye for seeing people, and if you aren’t already following HoNY, I highly recommend it.
I wanted to share one personal reason why this book, and the project in general, appeals to me so much. It comes from my trip to Niagara Falls with my family last year. Niagara, of course, is this giant tourist trap. Thousands of people from all over the world crowd the place. I remember walking around and observing people of every size, shape, color, age, and ability. Though I’m white, I grew up first in an area that was mostly African-American, and then in an area that was mostly Latino. The few times I’ve lived in mostly-white communities have made me very uncomfortable, and I’m never more comfortable than when surrounded by a whole variety of ethnicities, languages, foods, and cultures.
At Niagara, after nearly a year in a part of Massachusetts that was mostly white-or-Asian, I was surrounded by a huge diversity of people again. I was struck by the beauty of it, and it hit home for me not for the first time in my life: I simply do not understand how people can’t see the beauty in diversity! We have such a limited notion of “beauty” or “right” or “good” in too many parts of this country. The media flattens us, even when they try to diversify by gender or race. How often do you see extremely dark-skinned, short men from India, or obese women who don’t have a specific body shape, or people with major birth defects, or American women with shaved heads or burkas, or elderly bearded men wearing dresses and nail polish? Because these people – and so many others – exist. They are all around us, if we open our eyes, and it is beautiful.
Brandon Stanton opens his eyes. He sees the people around him. He lives in a place filled with an amazing diversity of people, and he captures their stories. He shows the world to us through different eyes, and it’s my fervent hope that one day, everyone can see just how beautiful this diversity is, and love it, and wish for it, and see it everywhere – around them, on TV, in books, in politics, at churches, in schools…not just places like NYC or Niagara. I admit, I get so tired of homogeny, and I want this whole country to be the melting pot we claim it is.