What started as a photography blog by former bond trader Brandon Stanton grew into the bestselling Humans of New York (St. Martin’s Press) in 2013. Now, with more than 12 million followers on Facebook, Brandon’s next offering, Humans of New York: Stories (St. Martin’s, Oct. ), is sure to make another big splash. Stanton, who takes pictures every day and posts them on Tumblr and Facebook, says his second book developed organically as his work progressed. “By the time the first book went to print, I was just starting to evolve the interview process, where not only did I take someone’s photo but I also found out something unique about their life. The second book centers around that interview process.”
Back in 2010, he was shy about approaching people, but with experience, he got more courageous about asking folks if he could take their picture. He also learned that many really wanted to talk to him. “So much of our interactions are dominated by surface level conversations. I think there’s a scarcity of people that take a deep interest in the themes and lessons of our individual lives. So when you have somebody asking you these questions, even if it’s a stranger, there’s something very fulfilling and validating about being able to talk about your life, and not just anything about your life, but the most significant and powerful aspects.”
Asked about his success rate with getting participants, he admits that one out of three people turn him down. And depending on the person, his interviews range from a couple of minutes to half an hour. Stanton says certain themes show up again and again: “A lot of people have work-life balance problems. I try to get them to be specific—like what exactly are you having trouble balancing—so that I can present it in a new way.”
In a place as diverse as New York City, Stanton captures the full range of humanity. Some people open up about very serious problems: “What they feel most guilty about; the affair that they’re having; their son’s suicide; their wife’s cancer; their hatred of their father.” How does someone having an affair feel about being photographed? Stanton explains, “I photographed their hands. When it’s very heavy, I always give them that option to have an anonymous photo.”
On the lighter side, Stanton says, “There was the boy who wanted to invent a fart gun. Then I have an 80-year-old, eccentric woman who was trying to break into a fashion show. There’s also a cop called ‘Officer Hollywood’ because he auditions for television and Broadway shows.” Asked if he ever got cast, Stanton laughs and says, “I actually talked to him six months later, and he had just gotten a job on the show Gotham. He was so excited I reposted his story on Facebook.”
You can catch up with Stanton at several locales. He will be participating in the Adult Breakfast Panel this morning and autographing in the ABA Lounge immediately afterward. A little later, he will sign posters at Macmillan’s booth (3057–3059), at 11:30 a.m. For BookCon, he will be at a ticketed poster autographing at Macmillan’s booth on Sunday, 1–2 p.m. (Tickets will be given away at the booth starting at 10 a.m. that morning.) He will also be appearing in Room 1A21 for “A Conversation with Brandon Stanton,”
3:30–4:30 p.m., also on Sunday.