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Brandon Stanton – Humans of New York: Stories

January 14, 2016

Stanton, Brandon - Humans of New York Stories - 40067. Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton (2015)

Length: 428 pages
Genre: Non-fiction; Photojournalism

Started: 17 October 2015
Finished: 19 October 2015

Where did it come from? Pre-ordered from Amazon.
Why do I have it? I’m a loyal follower and huge fan of HONY’s facebook page.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 October 2015.

Everyone around
you has a story to tell…
not just in New York.

Summary: Humans of New York started when Brandon Stanton lost his job as a stock trader in Chicago and he began taking portraits of people on the street. Along the way, he started interviewing his subjects, and including their stories as captions to the photographs, often taking multiple pictures to tell someone’s story. This book is a collection of 400 of these photographs and their accompanying stories, including many not previously posted on the HONY Tumblr or Facebook page.

Review: When the first HONY book came out, I loved it, but lamented the fact that relatively few of the pictures had captions. In fact, what I said was “Relatively recently [in 2013], Stanton has begun captioning each of the photos on his website with a quote from the subject, the result of a conversation, and these quotes (and Stanton’s gift at connecting with strangers in such a way to elicit them) are what really sets the HONY project apart. But since many of the photos in this book are from earlier in the project, I missed the longer and more elaborate captions.” Now with his second book, Stanton is pulling from the past few years of the photos with the longer captions, with people telling more of their story, and it’s everything you could want. (Except it’s missing the value added by the Facebook comments with other people sharing their stories. HONY is the one place on the internet where it’s okay – even good! – to read the comments. But I guess that doesn’t work so well in book form.)

Of course, a lot of the people featured are familiar from following his Facebook page; I’d estimate about 30% is new material and 70% are stories I’d seen before. (Although it was certainly nice to revisit that 70%… and he put one of my favorites – “You’re taking my picture!” – on the second page of the book, which was a pleasant surprise. Seriously, that kid’s joy is just so infectious that I grin every time I see it.) And even though this was my second time seeing many of these pictures and reading many of these stories, I still found myself tearing up more than once, with sad and happy tears both.

I also think that in addition to the new photos and their stories, there’s some added value to come from approaching Stanton’s work in book form. The stories on his blog are largely chronological in terms of the order that he meets these people, but the book isn’t constrained in that way, and there was clearly a lot of thought put into the order and layout of the stories in this book, where two facing pages will have some connection between them, some issue in common, even though they may outwardly appear like two very different people. And this juxtaposition of poses and postures and people highlights what’s really great about this project: that it makes us more aware of the humanity of the people around us, and reminds us that everyone has their own story to tell. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not all blogs make for good books, and not all coffee table books have something of substance to say along with all the pretty pictures, but in both cases, Humans of New York: Stories is the exception to the rule. Highly recommended.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bookfoolery, Lesa’s Book Critiques, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

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