HONY’s Brandon Stanton Explains How to Approach Strangers During Must-See Q&A

Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the now iconic Humans of New York photo blog and #1 NYT bestselling book Humans of New York recently sat down with some students and faculty at the University College of Dublin to receive the James Joyce Award.

But more important for us than the award is that he also sat down to talk about HONY how it has become what it currently is.

The above video comes in at 15 minutes and is probably the most powerful and shared of the bunch. In it, Stanton demonstrates — with some help from a tearful and ecstatic volunteer — how he actually goes about approaching people on the streets in NYC. This is probably the question he gets most often and the demonstration is damn near priceless if you’re just getting into street photography.

However, this wasn’t the only thing Stanton spoke about while at UCD. There was a captivating talk about HONY and how it came about (above) as well as a full Q&A session that led to many more insightful responses. Below, I’ve collected a few of my favorites for you to check out.

If you’d like to see the full list, you can head on over to the playlist UCD has set up on YouTube.

  • Andy Austin

    I love Brandon’s work. His work isn’t technically flawless, but nobody cares because the stories are so captivating and he’s able to capture such emotional photos that go perfectly with the quotes.

  • Edgar Allan Bro

    Agreed. It’s one of the only photography feeds I actually follow on facebook. Compelling subjects with interesting stories.

  • Scott

    I care a little. I love the stories but it grates on me a bit how often they are out of focus :(

    I also wish he pushed himself a bit with his photography. He’s got the overall idea nailed so why not try for more compelling photographs?

  • Adam Cross

    yeah, from photos and videos of him it seems he uses the 85mm 1.2L, you can always tell when he’s shooting at 1.2, the subject isn’t sharp but the background looks great :P

  • Sum_it

    Technically flawless? I might have to disagree. Although his photography
    is above average, I don’t think many of them are particularly
    interesting to look at. That being said, the story complements the
    picture and the picture complements the story. That combination is what
    makes his work spectacular.

    Judging purely on photography: there are areas for improvement.

    EDIT: I’m an idiot. Misread Andy’s original comment. Sorry about that!

  • Andy Austin

    I think you misread what I said, I said his work ISN’T technically flawless. But his ability to capture the moment and pair it with beautiful quotes makes up for it.

  • Andy Austin

    I think it’s because capturing the story is more important than capturing a flawless image. He might take a couple shots of each person, one might be sharp and another not. But I guarantee he’s going to pick the not sharp one if it captured an emotion that coincides with the quote better than the other.

  • Sean Walsh

    Great point. So many people don’t get that… they want everything absolutely tack sharp all the time. Being in focus is only one facet of the whole image. How many boring images are perfectly sharp, yet ones that illicit real emotion from the viewer are left to gather digital dust because they weren’t in focus?

  • Scott

    He may need to work on his technique or post processing then cause a sharp photo of a static subject that’s posing for you shouldn’t present too many challenges :O

  • flightofbooks

    “isn’t technically flawless” is putting it rather kindly. it’s a rather cheap and exploitative gimmick to use people’s personal stories to make us care about his lazy images.

  • flightofbooks

    Because he has no talent as a photographer and no ambition to acquire any. He’s in it for self-promotion. His images are good enough to work as a vehicle for his sappy gimmick, so that’s as good as he’ll bother making them.

  • flightofbooks

    How many of Brandon’s images actually elicit “real emotion” without the drippy commentary accompanying them? The problem isn’t simply that his images are technically poor (though many if not most are). It’s that they’re devoid of any sort of creative or artistic spark what so ever.

  • flightofbooks

    Brandon Stanton is to photographer as Thomas Kinkade was to painting.

  • Vlad Dusil

    Aside from the technically flawed nature of his images, the last interview question nailed it. He’s set himself apart by doing something different and doing it with a passion and consistency. Now he’s got nearly 7.5mil fans on Facebook. His images may be lazy, but the entire process of the story telling is everything but that.

  • flightofbooks

    He’s a pathetic panderer. His story telling process is shallow and lazy. It’s actually offensive.