Anyone that has a Facebook has most likely been exposed to one of Brandon’s fantastic blogs. Brandon Stanton is an American photographer and blogger most famously known for being the founder and sole photographer/writer of Humans of New York. He has always let his passion take him on crazy life adventures. To quote him directly, “I get really passionate about things. At some time in my life, I’ve been obsessed or borderline-obsessed with saltwater aquariums, the baritone euphonium, reading, piano, filming, financial markets, New York City, and photography…. I took out $3,000 in student loans and bet it on Barack Obama to win the presidency. A friend heard about this bet and got me a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade… It went really well for a while. But then it went really bad. Whoops. After I lost my trading job, I decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street.”
It takes a special kind of person to be willing to uproot his life every time a new passion comes along. This is the textbook definition of intrinsic motivation. He doesn’t care about wealth or fame. His only goal is to follow his passion, which is currently Humans of New York. What is especially impressive is that he had been studying history in college before he was offered a job on the Chicago Board of Trade, a field not even slightly related to history. It takes an incredibly flexible and creative mind in order to be able to make that transition. And to top it all off he then lost his job and followed his newest passion with absolutely no financial security.
Brandon started the Humans of New York Facebook page in November of 2010. His initial plan had been to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their portraits on a map of the city. After some time he had shifted his purpose and began holding full blown interviews of the people he photographed and including them in his blog posts. The posts quickly grew famous on social media and his page now has over twenty million followers on social media. On top of that, his book, Humans of New York, reached the #1 position on the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers a month after it was published. So what makes an age-old practice of interviewing people gain so many followers?
What makes his work beautifully creative is the culture in which he operates. New York has a reputation of being one of the colder cities in the world and Brandon is on a mission to turn up the heat. As he puts it, “It’s the taking an atmosphere of fear and strangeness and uncomfortableness, and turning that into an atmosphere of intimacy where people feel comfortable to disclose in a very short amount of time.” Not only is his work creative, it acts as a platform for which people can share their creativity and uniqueness. People are allowed to express themselves to the masses through his interviews and photographs. Here’s a video of how he approaches strangers on the streets of New York and gets to asking them the very personal questions that make it into his blog.