HUMANS OF NEW YORK

February 14, 2020 at 5:00 am

We’ll speak with Brandon Stanton, the man behind the viral sensation.

Aired on October 22, 2019 & February 13, 2020. 

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>>> BRANDON STANTON TRADED
SECURITIES ON THE CHICAGO BOARD
OF TRADE FOR THREE YEARS UNTIL
THINGS WENT IN HIS WORDS REALLY
BAD.
AFTER HE LOST HIS JOB HE MOVED
TO NEW YORK CITY WHERE HE
STARTED THE BLOG HUMANS OF NEW
YORK IN 2010.
FAST FORWARD TO 2015 AND BRANDON
STANTON IS A NUMBER ONE "NEW
YORK TIMES" BEST SELLING AUTHOR
WITH OVER 50 MILLION FOLLOWERS
ON FACEBOOK.
HE'S PHOTOGRAPHED AND
INTERVIEWED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE
ON THE STREETS OF NEW YORK CITY,
HAS BEEN INVITED TO THE OVAL
OFFICE BY PRESIDENT OBAMA, AND
HAS BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE 30
MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ON THE
INTERNET BY "TIME" MAGAZINE.
BRANDON'S BOOK IS "HUMANS OF NEW
YORK STORIES" AND HE JOINS ME
NOW.
BRANDON, THANKS FOR COMING.
>> THANKS, RAFAEL.
>> YOU ARE A GEORGIA BOY, RIGHT,
GREW UP NEAR ATLANTA?
>> YES, SIR.
>> SO WHY DID YOU COME TO NEW
YORK CITY AFTER YOUR IGNOMINIOUS
END IN CHICAGO?
>> I WAS QUITE RANDOM.
I WAS TAKING SOME TIME OFF, I
GOT FIRED AND I WAS JUST GOING
TO TRAVEL TO A FEW DIFFERENT
CITIES AND PHOTOGRAPH, JUST FOR
ENJOYMENT, AND NEW YORK CITY WAS
ABOUT THE FOURTH CITY I HAD GONE
TO.
I HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE.
I WOULD SAY THAT ABOUT TWO
MONTHS AFTER I SAW NEW YORK CITY
FOR THE FIRST TIME I WAS HERE
WITH THE GOAL OF PHOTOGRAPHING
10,000 PEOPLE ON THE STREETS OF
NEW YORK.
>> THAT WAS YOUR ORIGINAL GOAL?
>> THERE WAS A VERY QUICK
ACCELERATION IN MY RELATIONSHIP
WITH THE CITY, YEAH.
>> WHY DID IT DEVELOP?
>> I HAD LISTEN TRADING BONDS
FOR ABOUT TWO YEARS AND THINKING
ABOUT MONEY AND MARKETS FOR TWO
YEARS AND I HAD NOTHING TO SHOW
FOR IT, I LEFT WITH NOTHING.
I DECIDED I WAS GOING TO SPEND
THE NEXT PERIOD OF MY LIFE
FOCUSING ON NOTHING BUT MY TIME
AND SPENDING MY TIME ANY WAY I
WANTED TO.
WHAT I ENJOYED DOING AT THE TIME
WAS TAKING PHOTOS.
SO MY FIRST GOAL WAS TO FIND A
WAY TO MAKE JUST ENOUGH MONEY
WHERE I COULD PHOTOGRAPH ALL DAY
LONG.
I HAD THIS KIND OF WEIRD IDEA, I
WILL DO IT MASSIVE PHOTO PROJECT
WHERE I WILL TRY TO PHOTOGRAPH
10,000 PEOPLE IN NEW YORK CITY
AND PLOT THEIR PICTURES ON A MAP
AND THAT IS NOTHING LIKE HUMANS
OF NEW YORK IS TODAY, BUT THAT
WAS THE FIRST IDEA THAT GOT ME
TO NEW YORK CITY AND GOT ME ON
THE STREETS EVERY DAY DOING THE
WORK.
>> YOU WOULD THINK THAT NEW
YORKERS WITH OUR REPUTATION OF
BEING SO RUDE AND SO DIFFICULT,
THAT YOU WOULD NOT BE MOTIVATED
TO CONTINUE, TO STOP STRANGERS
ON THE STREET.
>> IT'S HARD.
YOU KNOW, BACK WHEN I FIRST
STARTED AND I HAD NO SUCCESS IT
WAS REALLY HARD, YOU KNOW,
NOBODY IS PAYING ATTENTION, MY
FAMILY THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY, I
HAD NO MONEY AND I'M TRYING TO
STOP PEOPLE ON THE STREETS TO
TAKE THEIR PHOTOS AND THEY'RE
BEING RUDE.
IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT, YEAH.
>> YOU ARE A PHENOMENAL SUCCESS.
15 MILLION FOLLOWERS, MORE THAN
15 MILLION NOW, I DON'T KNOW HOW
MUCH, IT CHANGES EVERY DAY ON
FACEBOOK.
BEST SELLER, "NEW YORK TIMES"
BEST SELLER.
WHO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THE
SUCCESS?
WHY DOES YOUR WORK SEEM TO
RESONATE SO MUCH WITH PEOPLE?
I THINK IT'S THE COMBINATION OF
TAKING A RANDOM PERSON ON THE
STREET AND TAKING THEIR
PHOTOGRAPH.
IT BEING THE PICTURE OF A
COMPLETE STRANGER.
THEN I SPEND 30 TO 45 MINUTES
WITH THAT PERSON, ASK PERSONAL
QUESTIONS, WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST
STRUGGLE, WHAT DO YOU FEEL MOST
GUILTY ABOUT THIS LIFE, WHAT'S
YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS, WHAT WAS
THE SADDEST PART OF YOUR LIFE.
I FIND OUT VERY PERSONAL STORIES
AND PERSONAL DETAILS ABOUT THAT
PERSON AND LATER ON WHEN I SHARE
IT WITH THE AUDIENCE I THINK THE
REASON THAT SUCH A LARGE GROUP
OF PEOPLE HAVE GATHERED AROUND
THIS WORK IS THAT THERE'S
SOMETHING VERY POWERFUL ABOUT
SEEING SOMEBODY THAT YOU DON'T
KNOW BUT THEN HEARING A STORY OR
SOMETHING THAT WAS SO PERSONAL
THAT THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE TOLD IT
WIFE.
>> WHAT'S THE SADDEST STORY AND
SADDEST PHOTOGRAPH YOU HAVE
TAKEN?
>> IT'S SO FUNNY BECAUSE I
ALWAYS ASK PEOPLE ULTIMATUMS
WHAT WAS THE SADDEST MOMENT OF
YOUR LIFE AND WHAT WAS THE
HAPPIEST MOMENT.
THEY ARE HARD QUESTIONS TO
ANSWER.
SO, YOU KNOW, I'D SAY PROBABLY
THIS RECENT TRIP I DID, I JUST
GOT BACK FROM EUROPE WHERE I WAS
INTERVIEWING SYRIAN REFUGEES, IT
WAS THE SAME PROCESS, I WOULD
ASK THEM THE SAME QUESTIONS I
WOULD ASK PEOPLE ON THE STREETS
OF NEW YORK CITY, WHAT WAS THE
SADDEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE,
ALMOST ALWAYS IT HAD TO DO WITH
WAR, THOSE STORIES WERE
PARTICULARLY HEARTBREAKING.
>> AND THE FUNNIEST.
>> KIDS.
KIDS ARE UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY,
THEY ARE 100% SINCERE WHILE
THEY'RE SAYING THE MOST
RIDICULOUS THING YOU EVER HEARD
AND THAT ALWAYS GETS ME.
>> DESPITE THE FACT THAT AS YOU
TOLD ME BEFORE WE SAT DOWN THAT
A THIRD OF THE PEOPLE STILL
DON'T KNOW -- TURN YOU DOWN, AT
LEAST IF THEY ARE -- NOW THAT
YOU'RE FAMOUS AND A LOT OF
PEOPLE RECOGNIZE YOU, DOES THAT
CHANGE THE DYNAMIC WITH YOUR
INTERACTION WITH YOUR SUBJECTS?
>> IT DOES.
I WAS WORRIED ABOUT IT WHEN
HUMANS OF NEW YORK FIRST STARTED
GROWING FAST AND I STARTED TO
GET RECOGNIZED ON THE STREETS I
ASKED MYSELF HOW IS THIS GOING
TO AFFECT THE PROCESS?
ARE PEOPLE GOING TO BE TOO
SELF-CONSCIOUS OR SELF-AWARE,
ARE THEY GOING TO BE SCRIPTED
ANSWERS, I FOUND THE NAME
RECOGNITION OF HUMANS OF NEW
YORK ALLOWS ME TO INTERVIEW A
LOT MORE PEOPLE THAN I WOULD BE
ABLE TO INTERVIEW BEFORE.
A LOT OF TIMES A GRUMPY OLD MAN
I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU.
>> THAT WOULD BE ME.
>> YOU ARE NOT OLD AND YOU ARE
NOT GRUMPY.
BUT I WOULD STOP SOMEBODY AND I
WILL SAY, YOU KNOW, I'M SORRY,
OKAY, WELL, IT'S CALLED HUMANS
OF NEW YORK CHECK IT OUT LATER.
WHAT DID YOU SAY?
I WILL SAY HUMANS OF NEW YORK
CITY.
OH, MY GRANDSON TOLD ME ABOUT
THAT.
I'M ABLE TO INTERVIEW A LOT OF
PEOPLE THAT I WOULDN'T BE ABLE
TO INTERVIEW BEFORE AND I FOUND
THAT EVEN WHEN PEOPLE KNOW THAT
15 MILLION PEOPLE ARE GOING TO
READ THAT NIGHT, YOU KNOW,
THERE'S STILL A LEVEL OF COMFORT
THAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE IF YOU ARE
JUST TALKING WITH THE PERSON
ONE-ON-ONE AS IF YOU ARE HAVING
A CONVERSATION.
IF YOU TALK LONG ENOUGH
EVENTUALLY THE PERSON FORGETS
THEY'RE BEING INTERVIEWED AND IT
JUST BECOMES A CONVERSATION.
SO I'M ABLE TO GET VERY NATURAL
ANSWERS.
>> BRANDON, THANK YOU SO MUCH
FOR HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH
ME.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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