Humans of the World

Brandon Stanton, with his book
Niyantha Shekar, via Flickr

Liz Waid and Colin Lowther look a photographer who shares pictures and stories to celebrate all people.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

The picture shows a boy. He is young, about 5 or 6 years old. He is wearing a baseball hat and sitting on a bus seat. The boy is smiling. Under the picture, there are words. The person taking the picture has asked the boy a question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The boy has answered “A big boy.”

Voice 2 

Another picture shows a woman in a train station. She is wearing a nice dress and carrying red and white flowers. She smiles and poses for the camera. The words under the picture say “I am going home to see my mother.” The person taking the picture asks her, “Oh, is it her birthday?” The woman answers “No. I just love my mother, and she loves flowers.”

Voice 1 

These pictures come from a popular photography blog called “Humans of New York”. One man started this blog. Today, more than eight million people see these pictures every day. And the number is still growing. But why is this blog so popular? It is only about normal people, in one city in the world. Today’s Spotlight is on Brandon Stanton and his blog “Humans of New York”.

Voice 2 

Brandon Stanton grew up in the south of the United States. He did not plan to be a photographer. He studied history while he was at University. And after he finished school, he got a job at a finance company in the city of Chicago. But he was always interested in photography. And when he lost his job at the finance company, he knew it was time for something different. In 2013, Stanton took part in an Ask Me Anything session on the internet forum Reddit. He said about that time:

Voice 3 

“I have always felt like an artist. Although, I did not really have any technical skills like drawing or painting. I enjoyed beauty, thinking about life, and things like that. All these things made me feel like an artist. I sort of found my finance job by chance after college. So when I lost my job I said - I am just going to try and be an artist. I just got this new camera. I feel like I have a good sense of what makes a good picture. I love it. I am just going to do it.”

Voice 1 

So, Stanton moved to New York City in November 2010. He had enough money to live there for a month. He knew it was a risk, but he had an idea. He wanted to take 10,000 photographs. For the first six months he took many photographs of the people in New York. No one believed he could be successful. But then he began his photo blog. He says in a video from Facebook Stories:

Voice 3 

“After six months, I had thousands of photos. I had been taking pictures for months and no one was paying attention. One day I started a Facebook page called Humans of New York. We started getting one new fan a day, then two fans a day. Then all of a sudden it just expanded quickly.”

Voice 2  

At the very beginning, most of Stanton’s pictures did not include any words or information. However, that soon changed. Stanton noticed that the stories were as important as the pictures. In fact, they seemed more important. So he began to concentrate on asking people better questions.

Voice 1  

Today, Stanton’s Facebook page is more popular every day. Stanton spends three to four hours every day walking around New York City. He is a tall man - almost two meters tall. Some people can feel threatened by someone so big. So Stanton tries to make people feel comfortable. He wears normal clothes. He uses a higher voice to talk to people. And he crouches down when possible, taking pictures from the ground. Most importantly, he treats everyone with equal respect. He said on Reddit:

Voice 3  

“How do I do it? Sincerity - honesty and meaning what you say. A quiet voice. A smile. I do not act like something I am not. I try to talk to everyone the exact same way.

Voice 2  

He asks people questions about their lives. He asks them about their experiences and their dreams. Then he posts just a few of the things they say under their picture. They can be funny or serious. They can even give advice. One picture is of an old woman. She is standing in the street holding an umbrella to cover her from the rain. She looks as if she is in the middle of speaking. Under the picture it says “When my husband was dying I said: ‘Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?’ He told me: ‘Take the love you have for me and spread it around.” Stanton told Reddit that this is one of his favorite photographs.

Voice 1  

In 2013, Stanton published his photographs and their stories in a book. It was a best-seller. Yaniv Soha is an editor at a publishing company. He suggested that Stanton make the book. He told the New York Times why he thinks people love Stanton’s work so much.

Voice 4  

“It is about the stories as much as it is about the photos. It is really about his ability to relate to people and show what makes them individual.”

Voice 2  

Stanton celebrates what makes each person special. But he also shows how people are so similar. He shows how people share the same dreams. He shares the wonder and beauty that children see in life. He celebrates the advice and wisdom from older people. He celebrates people - humans - everywhere. Stanton tells the Wall Street Journal newspaper:

Voice 3  

“Every picture is a little party for someone every night. We put their picture up and say nice things about them.”

Voice 1  

Other people have copied Stanton’s idea. There are other photography blogs celebrating humans of Tel Aviv, Rio de Janiero, Tehran, Paris, Dublin, Kolkata, London and more! Stanton says he is happy for other people to use his idea. Megha Majumder photographs the people of India for “Humans of India”. He told the website why he thinks people love the “Humans of...” blogs so much:

Voice 5

“There is this word that I fell in love with: sonder. It means understanding that every random person walking past is living a life as real and complex as your own life. It is complete with their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And to them, you are just a person passing on the street too. The word “sonder” made me understand - people were no longer just strangers.”

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Humans of the World’.

Voice 1  

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Have you seen the blog Humans of New York? Do you think pictures can celebrate people?


Avatar Spotlight
suong xk
said on October 06, 2014

i read ” humans of the New York” every day and i love it. Sometimes these stories reminds me to live better each day
People discuss about their experience, their dream and the most thing in their life. They also give advice for generation by short meaning story ... it is an amazing idea!

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said on October 08, 2014

It’s increase my knowledge,most of people like bolg more, share their emotion and experience.

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Mss Flamboyant
said on October 08, 2014

So in his situation losing job is lucky to him. His job is so meaningful :)

Green Kale's avatar
Green Kale
said on October 08, 2014

What he did was amazing. There are a lot of photographers taking photos like Brandon but I always wonder who started this fascinated idea first. Thanks Spotlight now my answer is clear. The best thing I also like about Brandon is he could have gotten desperate when losing his job, but instead, he stood up and kept moving forward.

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said on October 09, 2014

when you have a dream. A dream will come true to you.

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said on October 10, 2014

it is good information for me, i have never heard about his blog and his facebook. Now, i know it and follow this facebook. Thank spotlightenglish.

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said on October 07, 2015

Taking the photographs of humans just as sharing that together with humans’ thinking, experiences and dreams was an amazing idea because each of people represents individual personality having own unique attraction and interest too.
Thanks for the great topic!

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Mattia Pascal
said on October 08, 2015

Actually, the correct term is “Janeiro” and not “Janiero”.  “Janiero” would be spanish.

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said on October 15, 2015

After listening this, I immediately found Human of New York on fb and pressed like it. I read the new articles everyday and enjoy the people’s life all over the world, especially New York. I’m interested in reading posts and their comments. Through it, I can see the color of the world, I can feel their experiences as if I had been there. They demonstated me how beautiful the world still have been and taught some precious lessons in the life. Moreover, I can improve my reading and writing skills. Thanks Human of New York so much!

Tri's avatar
said on October 29, 2015

thanks so much

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 28, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject; answer to the questions above
Date: Wednesday 28, September 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Colin lowther, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!

No, I have never seen it.
Yes, I do. It is very important to have a Picture from one person or more who we admire and respect he or she. So, this is a way to keep a record of his or her and to celebrate them.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 23, 2018

No, I had not see this blog yet. Every art can do celebrate people everywhere in the wolrd because art is a human product. Music, litterature, painting, movies and dance represents human feel and human point of view about life. So they can celebrate people…