‘Humans of New York’ creator Brandon Stanton to close week with stories of connection between people, nature

Thousands of people walk the streets of New York City everyday. Photographer and author Brandon Stanton works to put a story to every face.

After losing his lucrative job in Chicago as a stock broker in 2010, Stanton decided to move to New York with one plan in his mind — and little money in his pocket.  

His master plan: interview and photograph a total of 10,000 strangers on the streets of New York, the epicenter of anonymity.

Stanton is the creative mastermind behind the photoblog “Humans of New York,” where he first started documenting photographs, interviews and stories from his impromptu street conversations. 

Now, what started out as a small blog has become an internet sensation, and taken him all around the world. Since 2010, Stanton’s work has expanded to numerous other formats, including three New York Times best-selling books and over 20 million followers across all his social media platforms. He has photographed and interviewed political figures, such as President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Stanton will discuss his work and life journey at 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 8, in the Amphitheater to close the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week Two theme of “The Wild: Reconnecting with Our Natural World.” 

“Stanton’s work is all about human connection, our common stories and shared identity,” said Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Matt Ewalt. “His photographs also show us how our environments help define us, from the urban spaces we have made, to the natural spaces we seek out, in the densest of cities.” 

Ewalt said that Stanton’s works challenge us to question “what it means to truly see each other, from those who we may walk past on the streets of New York, to those on the other side of the world that share common stories with us.” 

Stanton’s conversations and photographs formed the basis for his book Humans of New York. In his book, he features thousands of portraits and interview snippets from his intimate conversations with ordinary people walking the streets of the city. The conversations range from light-hearted and comical to heart-wrenching and emotional. 

In a cultural era characterized by technological advancement, political polarization and physical separation, Stanton reminds us of the value and importance of remaining present in the moment, and of remembering to take time to connect with those around us. 

Through his photographs, captions and astute observations, he offers his viewers insight into the intimate life experiences and stories of complete strangers. His work shows that there is truly no such thing as an average person. Rather, we all have unique life stories, backgrounds and experiences that have shaped who we are as individuals — making us each extraordinary in our own right. 

“I think there is something timeless and inherently good about having conversations with random people on the street,” Stanton said in a November 2020 New York Times interview. 

During this interview Stanton shared how the pandemic had affected his work.

“There’s something about the magic of having a deep conversation with a random person that I truly miss,” Stanton said.

Through his storytelling, Stanton paints a portrait of the shared human experience. In closing out Week Two’s theme, he will draw on his work, which aims to facilitate natural human connections in a world that is becoming increasingly influenced by human-made distractions. 

“I’ve always felt that Chautauqua, at its core, is all about human connection and conversation, and our ability to be present with one another, learn from one another and be part of a larger conversation — not just with friends and family but with those we meet for the first time,” Ewalt said, noting that Stanton makes for an apt replacement for previously announced lecturer Nick Offerman. “I hope that we can treasure these opportunities more, not just here at Chautauqua but in our lives year-round.”

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The author Will Karr

Will Karr is a rising senior at SUNY Fredonia majoring in journalism with a minor in English. He is from Jamestown, New York. This is Will’s first summer at Chautauqua. Will is working as the Daily’s visual arts and youth reporter. He will also be working as a multimedia journalist at WNY News Now in Jamestown. He is very excited to serve Chautauqua County communities in all his different endeavors this summer.