Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York, speaks at WT


Natalia Molina

Photographer and creator of Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton, spoke 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at the First United Bank Center. Nearly 25 million people follow Stanton online.

Tova Kibal, Features Editor

When Brandon Stanton snapped a photo of a man on a borrowed tractor in rural Pakistan three years ago, he didn’t know he would change that man’s life forever. The post, along with the story of the man having broken his tractor and losing his way to make a living, started a powerful movement.

Months later, Stanton received an image of the same man with a brand new tractor, which was paid for with money raised in the comment section under Stanton’s photo posted on his Facebook page Humans of New York. The page, followed by nearly 25 million people, is a live example of the power of storytelling.

Stanton spoke about his journey to success, traveling the world as a photographer and being at the right place at the right time 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at the First United Bank Center. The event was sponsored by WT’s Distinguished Lecture Series and open to the public.

It all started about seven years ago, when Stanton lost his job of two years as a bond trader. This was something he feared, not because he loved his job so much, but because he would have to tell people he had failed. But that day, Stanton decided to start seeing time as a valuable resource.

“I remember taking a walk, and I had just been fired. And for the first time, I was asking myself ‘what is it that I want to do?’’’ Stanton said. “…I asked myself, how much money could I have possibly made that could have bought those two years back?’’

He decided to pursue his passion, photography, and started taking photos of everything he could find in downtown Chicago. A regular day on the subway, he snapped his first photo of a person.

“I realized, at that point, that I have probably started too late to be the best photographer in the world but maybe, if I focus really hard on it, I can become the best guy in the world at stopping random people and taking their photograph,’’ Stanton said. “And from that moment on, that’s all I’ve done.’’

Soon, he got the idea to move from Chicago to the City of New York with the goal to take 10,000 photos of people in the city. What was originally meant to be a photography map quickly became something else, and the Facebook page Humans of New York was started. As of Today, Humans of New York is not just a Facebook page, it has developed in to two New York Times best sellers, an Instagram page, a Twitter page and show on Facebook Watch.

“Humans of New York today is not about photography, I don’t even think of myself as a photographer,’’ Stanton said. “…Humans of New York today is all about stories. It is all about stopping a random person, taking this person in front of you and learning about their life.’’

Stanton has met with former President Barack Obama and led projects such as “Inmate Stories,’’ “Refugee Stories’’ and “Pediatric Cancer.’’ His millions of loyal followers have allowed him to start fundraisers and scholarships funds for people in need. As an example, a single photography posted on the Facebook page in 2015 raised one million dollars for students in Brooklyn over the course of a week.

Freshman Haley Ward explained that Stanton’s work caught her attention on Facebook, and she decided to attend the event to get extra credit for a class.

“I couldn’t believe how many people he has talked to,’’ Ward said, “and I was very shocked when he said he talked to Obama and Clinton. Very cool experiences.’’

Broadcasting/electronic media sophomore Katy Zimmerman helped working the cameras filming the event. She explained that she wanted to be a part of making the event happen because of the great opportunity it was for students at WT.

“I love people and hearing their stories,’’ Zimmerman said. “I love having a camera in my hand, I love telling their stories and I loved hearing Stanton talk about his experiences with others’ stories.”