Bringing Humanity to the Internet: Humans of New York

Humans of New York is a photo blog striving to combat stereotypes and give each individual a chance to show their true colours and share their unique story. Humans of New York was started by photographer Brandon Stanton in 2010, it first started as just photos of people connected to a map of New York however over the years it has evolved to include quotes and stories from those being photographed. Humans of New York is a blog that also has Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages, the Facebook page having over 15 million likes. Humans of New York has published three bestselling books based off of the blog and it the primary source of income generated.

Humans of New York Book humans LITTLE-HUMANS

When Humans of New York began it was mostly a photograph-based blog however now the stories that accompany the photos are arguably the most moving part. Humans of New York utilizes mixed media through the combination of photos and quotes to alter readers’ perception of people. This was originally intended for just New Yorkers but has expanded to include other geographical areas as special series, the most recent being Syrian refugees in Europe as well as recent trips to Iran and Pakistan. Humans of New York uses their popularity to make a difference in the lives of those who need it.

Advocacy for worker rights in Pakistan

In the past year alone there are been three distinct series that helped to raise funds and awareness for specific causes. These fundraisers have been to aid Syrian refugees, to help people escape brickwork slavery in Pakistan and setting up scholarships for students at Motts Hall Bridges Academy, a school in a very rough neighborhood. This particular fundraiser helped to fund years worth of trips to Washington as well as scholarships for post secondary education. Humans of New York along with the school principal Ms. Lopez and Vidal the boy who started it all went to Washington and got to meet President Obama. Humans of New York doesn’t take credit for all the good work that they do, they simply document the experience and the changes that happen as a result.

The story of Vidal and Ms. LopezMeeting Obama

Although I’m unsure of who the original Coexers of Humans of New York were in 2010 certainly now their 15 million and growing fan base is a huge factor as well as the publishers of the books that stem from the blog and the people that it directly and indirectly helps. Most of the time when you read the comments section of anything on the internet it is full of negativity and hatful words towards those who posted the content or other commenters however Humans of New York comments are not like that. Humans of New York comments they are usually one of three things; people expressing their love and support for the subject of the particular subject, sharing their similar experiences with the subject, and thanking Brandon for telling the stories of these people.

Comments of thanksComment of support and shared experiences

Brandon remains fairly anonymous in his blog posts, the general format is a photo of the person he interviewed and a direct quote. He hardly ever adds his own voice to the blog posts. An exception is when he sets up a series of blogs or posts about a fundraising campaign as well as occasional book promotion. While he hardly inserts himself into the stories that he tells he is still narrating because he is choosing the people that he is photographing and interviewing as well as selecting the quotes that accompany the photos, he is the sole photographer. There is a whole dialogue that happens with each individual however readers only see a very small portion of it, often it is a part that stands out and makes an impact. The selecting of what parts of his conversation make it to the blog is one of the ways that narrating I comes into play. There are usually no paratextual elements to the blog posts apart from an occasional web link and the photos themselves.

VeteranDifficult experiences

The Humans of New York format has been replicated thousands of times since it’s beginning in 2010. There is a Humans of Disney and Humans of Laurier page as well as countless others that prove how powerful a blog Humans of New York really is. Humans of New York works well because it is a simple concept that is beautifully executed, there is nothing flashy about the blog and it doesn’t rely on click-bait to get views. Humans of New York increases reader’s compassion and offers alternative angles to which we generally see life. It delivers a powerful, clear message that despite our situation and appearance we are all just human.


-Danielle McKay

Works Cited

Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2010. Print.

Stanton, Brandon. “Humans of New York.” Facebook. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

Stanton, Brandon. “Humans of New York.” Humans of New York. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.


3 thoughts on “Bringing Humanity to the Internet: Humans of New York”

  1. Nice to read about a positive force on the Internet. In fact, I believe that HONY has had success because it’s positioned as being opposite from all the edited and unrealistic material put on social media. When an Instagram timeline is largely made up of scantily clad women that have clearly edited their picture for hours, its impact is in seeing regular people that you see every day. Interestingly, HONY that gains attention through images seems to say that “there is more behind the image we should be paying attention to”. In that way, it is successful at integrating photos and writing in order to gain a large following that opposes these heavily edited images of beautiful people that dominate the internet.


  2. I also, really like that you chose to focus on the campaigns HONY has chosen to done! One that stood out to me, outside of those that the account has done in other locations throughout the world, was the campaign Brandon did for Brooklyn school, Mott Hills Bridges Academy in February of 2015. Starting with a focus on one student, Brandon went on to highlight the struggles that students and teachers have at the school and the rough neighbourhood it is located in and as a result was able to raise over a million dollars to help support after school programs and a scholarship fund for the children. I think HONY provides a clear example of the ways in which life writing can help to evoke real change in the world, and the power that empathy has in persuading others to take action on problems that are otherwise frequently overlooked.


  3. I love how you chose to focus on the distinct series HONY has outside of the original New Yorkers. The impact HONY has had on thousand of lives just because of a single post that spurred other people to take action and try and improve a person or group of people’s lives is a really interesting aspect of the site. I think it is a unique thing that Brandon Stanton has been able to achieve and I hope he continues to use free platforms for his users, like Instagram. I love how HONY pulls people from across the world together and raises awareness for things that otherwise would have been overlooked or seen as a “thing I can’t do anything about”. HONY definitely proves that a little awareness goes a long way. Great job!


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