Have you ever walked on the streets through your favorite city at dawn, at sunset, in the rain, in the sun, in spring, in summer, and taken hundreds or thousands of pictures of the city?
Brandon Stanton — A Portrait
I have, and Brandon Stanton has, but he has got somewhere further. What are the secret ingredients of his success?
Discovered His Niche — Street Portraits
Brandon Stanton is a self-taught photographer. He took thousands of photographs and realized that his most unique photographs were portraits, so he began to specialize in street portraits.
Discovered His “Studio” — New York City
When he visited New York the first time, he found that the crowded streets would be his perfect place to do portraits.
NYC Inspired an Ambitious Idea in Him
NYC inspired him with a great idea – creating an exhaustive visual census of the residents in the neighborhoods of the city with 10,000 photos of New Yorkers plotted on an interactive online map.
He has walked thousands of miles, crisscrossing the city every single day single-handedly photographing New Yorkers.
The Idea Evolves
Somewhere along the way, Brandon Stanton started collecting quotes and short anecdotes from the people he met and posting the portraits alongside with these captions on his photo blog Humans of New York (HONY) and Facebook Page.
His Achievements — Millions of Fans & #1 NYT Bestseller
HONY now has millions of loyal fans and Brandon Stanton is the author of #1 NYT bestseller Humans of New York. With hundreds of exclusive full-color photos and all-new stories, the hardbound edition of Humans of New York showcases the outsized personalities of New York.
His Unusual Approach
It’s a common practice that street photographers photograph their subject without the subject’s awareness, and that the captured moment stands alone without a caption or story, but Brandon Stanton “breaks the rules” and enjoys the interaction that tears down the wall between strangers. It’s this “awkward” interaction rather than the people that makes his photographs interesting.
Why His Approach Works
The reason his “opposite” way works is that his taking photos of these people creates an event in their lives.
Brandon Stanton would ask himself how he could portray something unique about his subjects. He found that it’s neither an opinion nor a philosophy people commonly share, but rather a personal story he never heard before.
A Great Quote Carries a Bad Photo
As Brandon Stanton is more interested in the story than the “white balance”, his photos are not technically perfect, but when he has a conversation with people they will give him a great line and it carries a bad photo.
“I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”
He Is Persistent
When everyone is focusing on promotion and counting the number of followers, Brandon Stanton keeps walking, working and producing unremittingly. That’s what makes him stand out and attracts his audience. He got his first 1,000 Facebook fans in 8 months, but now he has 1,000 new fans every day and millions of loyal fans in total.
His Advice in His Words
“Even if your parents don’t like it, even if your friends don’t believe in it, you’ve got to believe it’s beautiful.”
A Lifestyle in Itself
As the author of #1 NYT bestseller, Brandon Stanton is supposed to be rich and to upgrade his living standard. However, he still lives cheaply in a spare apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He’s very happy with his life remaining unchanged, because going out every day and photographing is what he would do if he had all the money in the world. He’s already living his chosen life, doing what he loves every day and he also has an audience for his work.
This project is his lifestyle itself rather than a means to achieve a lifestyle.
Why It Works in NYC?
NYC is crowded, but it’s isolating too, because people there are living the most anonymous lives. Brandon Stanton’s photos connect people to others who are passing them on the streets every day.
NYC also attracts people who want to express and realize themselves.
What You Didn’t Know You Were Looking For
HONY owes its success to Facebook, since its unique content is not what people know they are searching for, rather, people don’t know what they are looking for until they discover it on Facebook.
You Are an Artist Even If You Can’t Paint
You don’t need to be able to paint or take technically perfect photos to be an artist. You are an artist when you recognize beauty and express your appreciation in your own unique way.
You don’t even need to be as expressive as Brandon Stanton. Your “studio” doesn’t need to be NYC either.
Even if you’re introverted, the key to your future success is to discover your own unique niche and perfect “studio” that gives you endless inspiration. Come up with your own unique approach that attracts your audience and follow your unique path to becoming a successful photographer.
Be persistent in your goal and work every single day towards it.