Journalism students visit St. Louis University to see Brandon Stanton

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Samantha Gaddis

Creator of “Humans of New York,” Brandon Stanton, teaches SLU students about the sacrifices people make to carry out their dreams. Stanton shared his experiences in creating “Humans of New York” and the adversities he faced along the way.

Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans Of New York, spoke at St. Louis University (SLU) at the Busch Student Center, Wednesday, Oct. 5.  Admission was free, but the line to enter swept around outside the building until 6:40 p.m. when SLU students received first admission, before outside spectators.

“We got into the college line by accident, but by the time we found out we were in the wrong line, it was all the way out the door,” sophomore Maddie Cooke said. “At that point we were determined to get in and decided we were temporarily going to become college freshmen.”

Humans of New York” is a blog featuring a collection of photographs and interviews from people on the streets of New York. Stanton spoke about his journey and the first picture that really sparked the idea that led to his work today. It began with a portrait of a woman on the street dressed entirely in green.

“I remember this picture, I wasn’t going to post because it wasn’t a good photograph,” Stanton said. “But I remember she said something to me. ‘I used to be a different color every single day. But then one day, I was green, and that was a good day. So I’ve been green for 15 years.’”

The picture ended up on the blog, and thus, it became the first unintentional “Humans of New York” piece. Stanton arrived broke in New York with the intention of pursuing a photo project that displayed his love for photography, and ended up with a completely alternate outcome.

“The agency I give people [which allows people to take photos down if asked] is almost never exercised,” Stanton said. “Why is it that these people are so comfortable sharing these things with a stranger?”

After all of the experience Stanton gained, he knows how hard sharing personal information with a stranger can be.

“There’s two threads going through these people. One of them is discomfort. The discomfort of being vulnerable and exposed. They might share things that they’re feeling guilty about or ashamed of,” Stanton said. “Parallel to that thread, is another thread: appreciation. It’s appreciation of someone taking an interest in your story. Not only an interest, but a deep curiosity of what you’ve been through, no matter how painful.”

His pictures and captions are not only entertaining and inspiring viewers. Stanton said that his conversations with people have impacted him, and the other person.

“There are a lot of people walking around with nothing but their stories,” Stanton said. “For some, it’s the only thing that they have to offer. When someone takes an interest in that story, and says it’s valuable to me and to millions of other people, it’s a very important feeling.”

Stanton noted that the “Humans of New York” that exists now is not what he originally envisioned; he did not have a perfect cookie-cutter plan for “Humans of New York.”

“I just wanted to make enough money so that I could wake up and choose the kind of work I did every single day,” Stanton said.

He told the audience that people who say they are not working because they are following their dream but don’t practice their dream, are not really following them. Stanton believes that it takes hard work.

“My favorite part in his presentation was how he clarified that you shouldn’t be working hard to get to a point where you no longer have to work. You should be working hard to get to a place where you choose your work,” sophomore Maddie Cooke said. “You work at something you love and because you love it, you keep doing it.”