Beginning as a photography project in New York in 2010, the wildly successful blog Humans Of New York (HONY) has become an extensive series that has spanned over twenty countries, sharing stories and celebrating individuality from strangers around the world to an intrigued global audience.
Recently, Brandon Stanton, the photojournalist behind the blog, travelled to Nigeria to explore and divulge the stories of Lagos’ people, after spending time in Egypt. Since its inception, hundreds of “Humans of” blogs have been developed by people in different cities around the world influenced by HONY, yet, Stanton’s touch (and platform) unarguably makes a difference.
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“I was a baby when I got married. I was only thirteen. I didn’t have an adolescence. One day I’m a child going to school, and the next day I’m a mother—responsible for a home. I cried too much. I didn’t know the person I married. He turned out to be a cold man. He had zero communication or understanding. I suffered for so long, but I endured it all so that I could raise my children well. But every human has a ceiling, and once you hit it– it’s over. For three years I planned my escape. I waited until my children were older. Then one morning I left the keys on the table, dropped my kids off at school, and headed straight for the courts. I finally have freedom. I’m laid back. I’m relaxed. I can express my opinion. I do whatever I want. I just finished a wonderful vacation in Egypt with my daughter. Nobody causes me trouble anymore. These are the best years of my life.” (Cairo, Egypt)
Stories have already began to pop up: A young man wrongfully imprisoned and tortured for ten days, who, since his release began to hawk the popular road snack Gala on a road where prisoners are transported, waiting for the moment where he could lend a hand to their plight by pushing food through the bars of the transport vehicle. A brutally honest young woman who challenges typical dogma that pervades the very religious society. “Heaven doesn’t sound that great. Supposedly there’s a lot of singing and trumpets. That sounds exhausting. I’d rather be sleeping,” she said. An Egyptian woman married as a child, who finally escaped and found respite in her later years, and a man who treats diabetes herbally in a society where healthcare is diminishing and plans to open a centre for those who are homeless.
The stories have been nothing short of intriguing, generating conversations as non stereotypical profiles continue to emerge. There have also been donations raised by Nigerians who were moved by the tortured young man’s act of selflessness, in addition to $3,000 given to him by HONY.
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“In my church you’re either Christian or possessed by demons. We have services four times per week. Luckily zoning out looks a lot like praying. I’m not saying that I don’t believe any of it. I just have a lot of questions that nobody will answer. Whenever I ask a hard question, they just show me a bible quote that says I shouldn’t ask questions. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think I’m becoming a Nihilist. Honestly, I don’t see any reason why people should be born. You exist, then you strive to attain something to make sense of your existence, and then you don’t exist anymore. Can’t we cut out some of those steps? It’s just too much work. I didn’t sign up for this. And when you finally die– instead of everything stopping, you have to become conscious again? Heaven doesn’t sound that great. Supposedly there’s a lot of singing and trumpets. That sounds exhausting. I’d rather be sleeping.” (Lagos, Nigeria)
Humans of New York has developed a large following through social media. The blog has over 17 million followers on Facebook and around 8.1 million followers on Instagram. Stanton has collected portraits in nearly 20 different countries including Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. “We’ve done a lot over the past eight years, he said on his Patreon account while urging his strong fan base to contribute to the blog’s future. “We’ve raised over $12,000,000 for charitable causes around the world. We’ve shared nearly ten thousand stories from forty different countries—free of charge. The Humans of New York has sprouted two New York Times-bestselling books and also released a 12-episode TV-show, with the first episode airing on Facebook.