Photographic projects are everywhere. Camera ready mobile-everytechs make this readily possible and the internet is a veritable photographic wonderland. And so while it’s easy to be moved and awed and wowed by a particular image or angle or composition or subject matter, these moments seem episodic rather than systemic.
Recently I encountered, yet again through Twitter, a photography-based project that made me smile just a bit wider with each shot I saw. The photographs are not spectacles of light play or exemplars of white-balance technique or the rule of thirds. Quite simply, they are part of an impressive collection of portraits of people in New York City being people in New York City. The photographer is Brandon Stanton, a former trader and just a guy who is on a mission to create a photographic census of the city. (Read more on his website.)
Two things captivate me about this project:
1. Brandon approaches people and takes their photos with their blessing. Often they pose and thus they, too, are helping to compose the image. He is not the surreptitious photographer; he is the everyday, citizen picture-maker.
2. Each photo, with its brief yet full (of narrative and human possibliities) captions, invite curiosity about the many stories to which it is connected — not just the stories of the photos, but the stories behind the stories of the photos.
My recent readings, in addition to taking me through intricate cityscapes, have also brought me deeper into philosophically-oriented readings on hospitality, cosmopolitanism, and personhood and running throughout these texts is a shared commitment to appreciating and understanding while also nurturing the human condition. I can’t say for certain whether or not this ex-trader has read these texts or is actively pursuing a philosophical agenda to heal our wounded human souls, but in the way he is bringing the lives of the strangers he photographs together with the strangers who visit his photographs it seems to me that he is enacting a bit of cosmopolitan-minded knowing of self and other with each photo he takes, with each post he makes.
This stranger thanks him. Check out his sites — the tumblr and original site (and the other social media outlets) — and you will, too.