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An evening with Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York

An evening with Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York

Brandon Stanton, owner of Humans of New York, speaks to an audience Sept. 28 at UNT. Sara Carpenter

An evening with Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York
September 30
01:34 2016

Students gathered in the Coliseum Wednesday night to watch as Brandon Stanton, world famous photographer and photojournalist, gave a speech depicting his journey in starting up Humans of New York.

Addressing the hundreds of students in attendance, he spoke about his experiences: getting fired from his bond trading job in Chicago, buying his first camera, taking his first photo and finally deciding that he was going to do what he wanted, when he wanted to do it.

Stanton bought his first camera in January 2010 and began shooting street photography on the weekends. He expressed his reservations invading personal space and, with zero photography experience, didn’t even know if what he was doing was legal. But it was, and he began to develop his own style shooting street art and people, eventually coming up with a plan: he was going to move to New York, stop random people on the street and take their photograph.  

And thus began HONY.

“The best part about my life is that I get to choose what I want to do when I wake up that day,” Stanton said. “[HONY] succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”

Stanton’s idea for the next chapter in his life was that it was unwritten. The thing he wanted to do most for himself was whatever he decided to do when he woke up in the morning. The photographer shared his story of when he worked for two long, hard years in bond trading, dedicating hours upon hours of time to thinking about markets, something he later realized controlled his life in a way he was not happy with.

During his speech, Stanton stressed the possibilities of creating your own career and working the job you’ve dreamed of.

“Following your dreams successfully is nothing but hard work,” Stanton said. “I wanted to figure out a way to do what I wanted all day long.”

So he decided to make a change, sold some photographs to some close friends and paid his way into New York City. His plan was to stop random people on the streets and share their stories with his photographs. He took his first photograph of a couple kids on a subway between stops. This was his first photograph of people he’d ever taken. Fast forward four years and Stanton is in the White House, interviewing President Barack Obama.

He’d done it. He’d designed the career he’d envisioned and found success along the way. 

To this day, HONY has crowd funded over $10 million and has traveled to several parts of the world to share stories of random people he stops along the way. Stanton has been to countries like Iraq, Sudan, Jordan, Uganda, Pakistan and more to interview people and share their experiences. In the six years that HONY has been around, its Facebook page has come to receive nearly 18 million likes and its stories have affected many. Stanton calls his following “the nicest 18 million people on the planet.”

Photography senior Colleen Landis and her twin sister Bridget Landis, an English and anthropology senior, both attended the night’s speech.

Bridget said that because she is an English major, telling other peoples’ stories was a subject she was interested in. HONY allows these peoples’ stories to be shared all around the world.

“I thought he was just really good at telling stories, but once he started traveling the world and growing, it kind of, I don’t know, made me realize how much bigger [the blog] was than just one person,” Bridget said. “He may not have control over how his pictures get portrayed to everybody, or how people take it, but it’s still important to get it out there.”

Colleen agreed with her sister, saying that the amount he’s contributed to the world couldn’t be expressed in a simple speech. Since HONY has been around for six years and traveled and collected stories from 14 different countries, there was a lot to talk about for one night.

“It was really difficult, I guess, for him to condense all of what he’s done for the past couple years into an hour,” Colleen said.

While there were audience members in attendance who had just recently heard about Stanton and HONY, some had been fans for years.

Biology senior Jawanna Ayyash had been following Stanton’s blog since 2013 and was excited to hear him speak that night. To Ayyash, Staton wasn’t just a photojournalist, he was an inspiration. 

Ayyash said after hearing Stanton’s speech, she wants to think about what she can do with her prospective career in pharmaceuticals while also helping people along the way.

“I think he really spoke to students,” Ayyash said. “The following your dreams segment, I really like that because you always want to put into perspective why you’re doing it, and for how long do you want to do what you’re doing.”

Stanton said that one of the key points to becoming what you want is not waiting around for things to happen the way you want them to.  Hard work and dedication is what drives his progression.

“Humans of New York is never growing, is never evolving if I’m not doing it,” Stanton said. “Don’t wait for perfect.”

Featured Image: Brandon Stanton, owner of Humans of New York, speaks to an audience Sept. 28 at UNT. Sara Carpenter

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Kyle Martin

Kyle Martin

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