A decade ago, Brandon Stanton took his first few photos and listened to the first few stories that would eventually become the Humans of New York viral sensation. Following that success, Stanton decided to see if that idea could travel.
Speaking about his original project, Stanton says that it wasn’t necessarily the quality of the image that made his work so popular.
“It wasn’t necessarily the photography itself that was interesting to people, it was meeting a stranger,” Stanton says to CBS Sunday Morning. “When you sit down there with somebody on the street even if you’re a stranger and you go to that place, you’re seeing a part of them that nobody else has seen before, and it’s extremely powerful.”
Stanton was able to highlight the viscerally real lives of actual people, not the scripted reality that is often portrayed on social media.
“Weakness, doubt, struggle, the opposite of everything that we broadcast every single day which is accomplishment, pride, ego,” Stanton says.
“Is a foreigner with a camera not only going to be able to stop people randomly but have any sort of meaningful and substantive conversation with these people that would somehow provide the same sort of depth and nuance that my work in New York provided,” Stanton wondered when he considered taking his project global.
Despite language and cultural barries, the answer to that question seems to be “yes.”
Stanton has traveled to more than 40 countries over the course of the last several years while working on this latest book.
“One thing that is indivisible and that everyone feels the same way is pain. and what causes pain in people’s lives is different,” Stanton says. “But if you’re looking across the world at somebody in a village in Africa who just lost their mother and they’re expressing that in a real authentic way, I don’t care how different the details are, the pain is the same and you can feel it and connect with that person.”
Stanton’s perspective on highlighting the connection of pain in the human experience is both depressing and uplifting. In one sense, it hurts to hear about the suffering of others. But on the other hand, empathizing with that pain can help relieve it.