Call Number: E851 St26h (in the new book section)
This is the second Humans of New York book by photographer Brandon Stanton. The first book was mainly photographs, while this book is a compilation of photographs and stories. Humans of New York originated as a blog, and also has a facebook page. The idea started when Brandon became unemployed and decided to take 10,000 photographs of people in New York. He sometimes got short quotes from them, but as his blog evolved he began getting longer stories.
The really interesting thing about this book is the stories that go along with the powerful photos. While one of the interviewees referred to it as being labeled, the stories give fascinating insight into people’s lives. The book doesn’t have chapters and the pictures aren’t officially grouped in any way, but there seems to be a theme for groups of photos, such as sickness or loneliness or love. Brandon shoots a variety of people, not shying away from the homeless or mentally ill. This is important because it gives these people, who are often ignored, a voice. The reader gets a glimpse into their lives and how they feel. He also does this with children, who are another group of people whose opinions aren’t always heard.
Some of my favorite photographs are the ones of children, and these often have funny quotes about life from a child’s perspective. One of my favorites was a series of three pictures of a little boy in a school uniform. The first paragraph is him talking to Brandon about math and the reader immediately can tell how smart and likeable he is. In the second paragraph he admits that he doesn’t have many friends and that other kids think he is a geek. The third picture of him is with an adult we assume is his parent, with this parent explaining how unique and caring he is. This series of pictures was my favorite because it gives you several perspectives of the same person. The reader is able to see what he thinks of himself (that he’s smart and loves math), what his peers think of him, and how his family feels. This allows the reader to see who he is in a more in depth way and shows that certain opinions aren’t always important.
Because many of the stories were one or two sentences or short paragraphs, it seems like Brandon is focusing on the most important or traumatic moments in these people’s lives. Many of the stories are about suicide or drug addiction, and while this is important to hear about, it often reduces the person’s story to just one problem. I would have really liked to know more about these people’s lives and not just their struggles with mental illness or drug addiction. I feel like this book was more about building awareness about these issues than the actual people themselves.
One other problem with the book was that the author never specified who was speaking, so in photos with two or more people, the reader can’t always tell who the quote is from, which can be confusing. On the other hand, this may have been done on purpose, and sometimes, in group shots, it really doesn’t matter who’s speaking.
All in all, this was a really fun, quick read with beautiful pictures and interesting stories. You can see more about Humans of New York at http://www.humansofnewyork.com/photographer or on their facebook page.