Humans of New York (HONY) is a photographic blog, and hands down some of the most amazing media on the Internet at the moment. In a simplistically genius way, HONY has captured the complicated mixture of emotions that accompanies the joy and misery of living in New York City, or any large city for that matter.
Despite being surrounded by millions of other people, it's easy for a person to feel lonely in NYC. Many people feel like just another face in a crowd of strangers, a voice unheard. In the midst of this perpetual rat race, people yearn for human connection. It's likely that many individuals in major cities across the world share these sentiments.
Through photographs and arbitrary anecdotes about people's lives, Humans of New York has granted a voice to the common New Yorker. It has revealed the story behind the millions of unfamiliar faces people pass by every day on the street or subway.
It has allowed New Yorkers to broadcast their hopes and dreams, their most painful moments and their greatest triumphs. Most of all, HONY has shown that you don't have to be famous to be important. Every human life has value, and all of us are more interesting than we might even begin to realize. We all have a story to tell.
HONY has filled people with hope, and the knowledge that no matter how small you feel, other people are experiencing many of the same experiences.
Recently, Brandon Stanton, the man behind HONY, embarked upon a world tour.
Working in conjunction with the United Nations, he is on a 50-day trip across 10 countries. In 2000, UN member states committed to accomplishing eight goals by 2015, dubbed Millennium Development Goals. Stanton's trip is meant to raise awareness of said goals, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
However, perhaps the most important product of Stanton's global expedition is the way in which it humanizes individuals in nations that are so frequently stigmatized or ignored.
He's already been to Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Jordan. Eventually, Stanton will head to Vietnam, India, and Haiti, among other places.
On his blog, Stanton wrote, "The point of the trip is not to say anything about the world. But rather to visit some faraway places, and listen to as many people as possible."
For people in the United States, the blog likely reveals how much they have in common with people around the world, even those in developing countries. While it's true that most Americans live decidedly easier lives than these individuals, all people are dealing with many of the same struggles: making money for rent and food, getting a business going, dealing with lost love, trying to get an education.
When it comes down to it, people are people, no matter where they are from. We all just want to live free and happy lives, regardless of where we are in the world. This is often forgotten in stereotypical portrayals of different countries in the media. It's important to remember this, so that we can begin to break down both the physical and mental barriers we have built between nations across the globe.
It's also important for people in America to remember how privileged they are. While everyone has a right to voice their struggles, it's helpful to remember that it could always be worse.
People in the United States are not engulfed by war and violence, for example, as many people in Iraq are. Stanton's blog highlights this tragic disparity. Moreover, it shows that we are all part of a global society, and that no one can stand idly by while people across the world are suffering.
Children Are The Same Everywhere: Happy, Wise And Up To No Good
She speaks more languages than anyone in the family. Because she plays with all the children in the street. (Erbil, Iraq)
One time we tried to climb up on a shelf at the mall, and the whole thing came down! (New York City)
'What's the score?' 2 - 0 'Who scored the goals?' I scored them both. (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)
'Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?' A person. (New York City)
Everyone Is Fighting A Secret Battle... So Be Kind
I'm embarrassed to say this, but I'll say it. I've had a really hard time finding work, so I've been living with my grandmother. And she's told me recently that she doesn't have the money to feed me. So I've been eating at my friend's house. I go over there, and I'm too embarrassed to ask for anything, but his dad always insists. He says: 'Why aren't you eating? Please, eat!' This has really caused my idea of 'family' to widen. I've learned that your family can be anyone. (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)
I don't want to live anymore. (New York City)
My parents were captured when I was sixteen. They both died in prison. 'What do you remember about the day they were taken?' I'm sorry. I don't think I can do this. Can we stop? (Shaqlawa, Iraq)
I've wanted to start a business since I was sixteen, but every time I try, the demands of my regular job catch up to me and I get fatigued. A couple of years ago, my friend and I had a great idea. We started meeting every night after work. We had a great plan— potential sponsors, a marketing strategy, a time line. But then things got really busy at my job. So we started meeting every other night. Then every fourth night. Then we postponed it for a month, and never found the right moment to start again. Then a year later, I picked up the newspaper, and there was an article about somebody else— succeeding with the same idea. I was like, 'f*ck.' (New York City)
The fighting got very bad. When I left Syria to come here, I only had $50. I was almost out of money when I got here. I met a man on the street, who took me home, and gave me food and a place to stay. But I felt so ashamed to be in his home, that I spent 11 hours a day looking for jobs, and only came back to sleep. I finally found a job at a hotel. They worked me 12 hours a day, for 7 days a week. They gave me $400 a month. Now I found a new hotel now that is much better. I work 12 hours per day for $600 a month, and I get one day off. In all my free hours, I work at a school as an English teacher. I work 18 hours per day, every day. And I have not spent any of it. I have not bought even a single T-shirt. I've saved 13,000 Euro, which is how much I need to buy fake papers. There is a man I know who can get me to Europe for 13,000. I'm leaving next week. I'm going once more to Syria to say goodbye to my family, then I'm going to leave all this behind. I'm going to try to forget it all. And I'm going to finish my education. (Erbil, Iraq)
I came over with a student visa. I wanted to study computers, but I couldn't enroll in school until I could prove that I had money to pay the tuition. The first three weeks I slept on trains. I kept asking people where I could find the Senegalese community. Eventually I met a person who told me to go to Harlem because there was an African community there. In Harlem, I found an association for Senegalese people. And they had places to stay for people who were new. I did restaurant and cleaning jobs for a couple of years. Eventually I met my wife and became a citizen. And now I have a security job, so I can finally enroll in school. (New York City)
We were engaged for six months, but her parents made her marry a richer man. 'What's the last thing you said to her?' I told her: 'I've done all that I can do. I wish you happiness in your life.' (Petra, Jordan)
In my heart of hearts, I wanted to do the right thing, but selling drugs was easy. Everyone was doing it. I mean, I'm not using that as an excuse, I made my own decisions. But I grew up around these Robin Hood figures who would sell drugs, then buy supplies for kids who were going back to school, or pay rent for an old woman who was about to get evicted. All my friends were doing it. It almost seemed fashionable. I never felt proud of it. I always thought I'd transition to a job with the Transit Authority, or a job like this— something I'd feel good about, but instead I transitioned to jail. I did six years. When I got out, it was tempting to go back to the easy money, because everyone around me was still doing it, and I couldn't get a job. But luckily I found an agency that helps ex-cons, because there aren't many companies looking to give people a second chance. I've had this job for a few years now. You know what product I'm selling now? Myself. Everyone around here is my client. Times Square is a drug to these people. And I'm picking up all the trash so that they can have the full Times Square experience. (New York City)
We Live In A Beautiful World... And It's Full of Hope
My grandmother remembers the Arab world much differently than people view it today. She remembers a place known for its music, innovation, and intellectual abilities. I may be naive, but I want to help work toward unity in the Arab world— both between our countries and within our countries— so that we can get back to that place again. (Amman, Jordan)
I'm really blessed, partner. (New York City)
The youngest one is the most courageous. If somebody is picking on her sister in Sunday school, she'll go after them! (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)
I do social work, focusing on young families. Basically I play and dance with babies. (New York City)
I want to be a pilot so I can fly everywhere. (Dhana, Jordan
I saw a drummer in Central Park give his sticks to a little kid, so that he could have a try. Ten minutes later, this was happening… (New York City)
Photos Courtesy: Brandon Stanton