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The Human Behind Humans of New York

Alan Flurry

Alumnus and 'What Can't You Do with an AB degree' example extraordinaire Brandon Stanton is profiled in the new issue of Georgia Magazine:

Stephanie Johnson is a 76-year-old New Yorker. Known as Tanqueray, she was incredibly candid, relaying stories about mob bosses and the grittier side of NYC in the ’60s and ’70s.

“I knew it was lightning. She was lightning,” says Stanton AB ’08. “After I shared her story, everyone was just obsessed with her.” (Including actress Jennifer Garner, who wondered in her comment why this woman’s life wasn’t a Netflix series.)

Tanqueray’s life struck such a chord with followers that when they found out her health was failing, they donated millions to a GoFundMe campaign Stanton created to help her live out the rest of her days comfortably. Tanqueray’s story is just one of thousands Stanton, a street photographer based in New York City, has shared on his social media accounts and blog, Humans of New York (HONY).

What started as a creative project ultimately turned into an online community 20 million strong and four books, including New York Times bestsellers and a children’s book.

Human origin

Stanton spent the first two years after graduation working in finance in Chicago. It was a lucrative but stressful job, and he’d started taking photos after hours to ease his stress. When he was laid off, Stanton figured he might as well give photography a chance full time.

So he packed his stuff and moved to New York City. He’d visited only once but knew it was where he could make his concept work. He’d photograph 10,000 random people on the streets and plot those photos on a map of the city.

“That was the idea that got me to NYC, with just two suitcases, completely broke,” Stanton says. “And then I started innovating from there, and it became less about the map and more about the daily content.”


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