Humans of New York: A big city reclaims its community through visual storytelling

November 10, 2014

Has “Humans of ___” come to your city yet? It all started when a guy named Brandon Stanton had an idea to take photos of New York City citizens and pin their photos on a map to create a visual representation of his participants’ locations. Humans of New York is a blog that strives to document a “photographic consensus” of the city. It consists of photos and first-person stories about New York City citizens from all backgrounds and ways of life. The blog has grown exponentially since it began in 2010, expanding to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, with over 10 million subscribers. Through this combination of photos and captions, a community is brought together in one of the most diverse cities in the world.

So what is it about Humans of New York that draws people in and affects them so deeply? I believe it is the honesty of the stories that each person portrayed shares with strangers. The more stories we read, the more the big city becomes a small community. This is exactly why the Humans of New York project works: We’re let into a world of vulnerability that allows us to relate and empathize with each other, which leads us to not only think about, but to care for other people and their stories.

The ever-growing catalogue of profiles has inspired several spinoffs around the world, such as Humans of Portland, Humans of San Antonio, and Humans of Mumbai. Briana Cerezo, photographer of Humans of Portland, says her motivation stems from her desire to “connect authentically” with people. In doing so, she hopes to build knowledge and a shared understanding of the city. Over in Mumbai, photographer Humayunn Niaz Ahmed Peerzaada says that Humans of New York inspired him to capture the essence of his own city’s spirit through the stories of its citizens.

Can your nonprofit or cause emulate Humans of New York as well? Can you connect your supporters to one another and build a sense of community by doing your own “Humans of ___” spinoff? Help them tell their stories. We want to hear them!

–Rachel Dobson, Fall 2014 Intern