If you wanted to take a photographic census of a city, what better place than New York?
The diversity. The sheer number of potential subjects. The average Joes and the really-not-so average Joes.
Brandon Stanton, a former Kennesaw resident, has spent the last three-and-a-half years criss-crossing the city shooting street portraits of the Big Apple’s inhabitants and its visitors.
He chronicles their lives in a collection of photos and stories in a new book, the aptly-titled “Humans of New York,” which hit bookshelves last week.
There’s a lot of momentum around the book, his blog and a website, www.humansofnewyork.com, said Stanton, 29.
“I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground,” said a buoyed Stanton, who lives in Brooklyn.
Stanton a self-taught photographer, has been doing non-stop media interviews and a “Humans of New York” Facebook page has more than 1.5 million likes and more than half a million followers on Tumblr.
“Only in New York,” writes on Facebook follower.
Another posted a comment about seeing her daughter and partner’s photograph.
“Really happy to see my daughter with her lovely partner here…and I’m an ordained mainline Protestant minister as well. Religious and embracing my wonderful girl exactly how God made her . Love, Mom.”
Thumbing through the vividly photographed book, you see the “pigeon whisperer,” a young woman holding two birds nibbling out of her gloved hands.
There’s the street dancer who, on request, contorted his body to put all his skills into a single move.
And there’s the photograph of two hands (probable warlock hands, Stanton calls them) that jut out from black feathered sleeves with each finger adorned with oddly-designed silver rings.
A woman tells of a love lost and two costumed musicians perform a “prayerformance,” which involved chanting in a made-up language.
Stanton graduated from the University of Georgia in 2008 with a major in history. “I kind of trusted that I would find something (work),” he said. “I wanted to educate myself in something that I enjoyed and was interested in. It was a very practical major. I don’t think there’s any better way to do things in the world than to learn what others did.”
In college, his risk-taking side, surfaced when he placed a $3,000 wager that then-Sen. Barack Obama would win the presidential election.
He worked as a bonds trader in Chicago but lost that job. Then he decided to travel and take photographs. He went to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and New York, where he was instantly struck by the magnitude of humanity.
His mother was less than thrilled when he told his family he wanted to shoot and post photos of people on Facebook.
But his parents, who still live in Georgia, have thrown their support behind the project and book.
“You can understand,” he said. “I don’t blame her at all. It didn’t seem like a sustainable way of making a living.”
He spent hours each day taking photographs in New York and posting them on his blog.
Stanton took about 10,000 photographs. About 400 made it into the book. About one in every three people he approached, said no to being photographed. He thought about the best way to approach people. He decided a calm and genuine approach worked best and “don’t try to over explain yourself.”
He doesn’t have a favorite. “It’s just not about a single picture,” he said. “It’s like a kaleidoscope.”
His next book project is his best children’s photos, it will be called “Little Humans ” and perhaps a photo collection shot in Puerto Rico, where he once vacationed without a camera and was so impressed that he returned with one.
“I’m practicing my Spanish.”