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Humans of New York – A snapshot into people’s lives and stories

Humans of New York is a project born in 2010 by the photographer Brandon Stanton. His main purpose is to tell stories – snapshots of individuals' lives – no matter their characteristics: there are stories of women, men, elderly people, kids, foreign or locals, disabled or abled-bodied individuals, heterosexual or homosexual, etc. etc.
Probably this is a way to highlight that every story is important, unique and of interest and that normality involves everyone – or, conversely, it does not concern anyone.

Prerequisite for being interviewed? None, except from living in NY, or at least this was true when the project started. Now there are also stories collected over the years during the author's travels around the world (e.g. Iran, Iraq and Pakistan)

There are long stories, sad stories, funny stories and sometimes very short stories – usually these latter include solely a few sentences. In some rare cases, the photograph is not followed by any sentence, usually this happens when words are superfluous and the image speaks for itself.
The author emphasized that the core strength of his project is its simplicity. The images capture the attention of who is watching, but what it really makes the difference are the photos' descriptions. The success of HONY (Humans of New York) is attributed to the talent of Brandon Stanton and the empathy his photos arouse.

Why do I want to share these stories with you? First, because I personally love them, I very often found myself lost in reading them. Second, because I think you might find interesting some portraits of the interviewed individuals with SCI. For example, the one of this girl who has well clear in mind where she wants to go and what she wants to do. Her intervention made me think about the word "inspiration". In fact she states: "I don't want people to pity me. I don't want to be another 'poor her.' I don't want to inspire people. 'Inspiration' is a word that disabled people hear a lot. And it's a positive word to you. But to us, it's patronizing. I'm not living a wonderful life for a disabled person. I'm living a wonderful life,period. This morning I got accepted into the London School of Economics. Now hold on, let me put on some lip gloss before you take the photo."

Actually, before reading this, I've never thought the word "inspiration" could assume this connotation. Now, since I do believe disabled people are inspiring, I don't know what word to use instead or if it is the case to use this word again when talking with an individual with SCI… What do you think about this?

Beyond this, there are many other stories regarding people with SCI – I leave you the link of the Facebook page and the website at the end of this post. One of my favorite is this one: "We met on a dating site twelve years ago. I sent her a message saying: 'I want to let you know up front that I'm in a wheelchair, because I can't hide it.' And she wrote back: 'Why? Is it bright yellow?'"

I think the most beautiful thing of these messages is that they never pity individuals with disabilities, these are sentences that shows their ordinary lives, their personal strengths and their hobbies or passions. As in this example: "I like scuba diving, kayaking, anything outdoors. That's what the third wheel is for-- it makes this thing all terrain."

Of course there are also stories of individuals with other disabilities as the one of this tenacious guy: "After I was born, I was the subject of a 45-minute dissertation at Columbia University. Almost all of my organs were born externally, and had to be sewn into my body. I don't have a belly button-- only a scar where my feeding tube used to be. My mother even tells me that she wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to stand, eat, or drink. But now I can rollerblade. I can do a handstand on my crutches. I've got a core group of friends, a girlfriend, a college degree, and I'm helping to manage a radio station at the age of 23."

I leave you some others "snapshots" about individuals with SCI or other disabilities here below, if you are interested take a look:

And here you can find the website and the Facebook page of Humans of New York:

If you are interested, Brandon Stanton also published three books:

  • Humans of New York (2013): this book, which is inspired by the blog, contains around 400 photos and portraits of NY individuals;
  • Little Humans (2014): this book focuses on the portraits of children living in NY;
  • Humans of New York Stories (2015): as anticipated by the title, this book includes less images than the previous ones, but it contains more developed stories.
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