Monday March 4, 2013
New York photographer snaps city's face
NEW YORK: New York is famously photogenic, but photographer Brandon Stanton is not interested in the skyscrapers, bridges or famous yellow cabs. It is New Yorkers themselves he wants to capture - 10,000 of them.
Every day, the obsessive shutterbug goes out through Harlem, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx to snap another New York face. He is up to nearly 5,000.
There is a woman in white furs, an older man in a fake tiger-skin coat, a nun, a man in wizard costume, ballerinas posing over heating vents, and a Michael Jackson lookalike busking in the subway.
"I am going on a treasure hunt," Stanton told AFP.
The photographer describes himself on his website as "really passionate about things", which is something of an understatement.
The 10,000 pictures idea came up after he moved to New York from Chicago where he had just lost a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade. The fact he had no photography experience did not faze him.
"Mom wasn't too happy about that decision, but so far it's gone pretty well," he writes.
After two years, Stanton has earned a big following, with nearly 560,000 Facebook fans.
His method is to walk, often for hours, in search of a striking image that he thinks will let him get through to the subject's personality.
He always starts with a simple, "Hi, can I take a picture of you?" This then develops into more personal questions aimed at getting to know his latest New Yorker, which include things like "What was the happiest moment of your life?"
A few answers stick out in Stanton's mind, among them an alcoholic homeless man who dreamt of going fishing and a young punk who said simply she wanted to be happy. A widow told him she still had a lot of love to give.
The first year of the project was difficult, he says, with only 3,000 online followers.
"We were very worried for him, but he kept going," his friend Samuel Ward said. "When he begins something, he is very into it, very focused."
When Stanton's blog caught on, the nature of the idea changed. "At the beginning it was about my work. Now it is more about the phenomenon which brings people," he said.
He's even stopped focusing on the idea of trying to reach a specific number of photos: he has bigger responsibilities.
"In two years, I've never had holidays. We could think that it is easy to be my own boss, but my actual boss is my 560,000 followers, for whom I have to update pictures every day. It can be very stressful," he said.
Even New York is no longer big enough for the Humans project.
In December Stanton traveled to Iran to do the same thing. He now has 20,000 Iranian followers on his blog.
"My perspective now is to go everywhere," he said.
Inspired by Stanton, other photographers are already starting to do the same kind of photographic catalogue of their cities. There are imitation projects such as Humans of Paris, Humans of Beirut, Humans of Buenos Aires and even Karachi on Facebook.
"It is great, but I prefer to be focused on my work, without caring about them," Stanton said. - AFP