In 2010, Brandon Stanton created “Humans of New York” to give a worldwide audience glimpses into the lives of New York City strangers through an extensive collection of photos and quotes. The page’s popularity skyrocketed over the next four years to encompass over 3.5 million likes on Facebook and a published book of the pictures.
Inspired by Stanton’s work, Jae-Young Son ’16 launched “Stanford Humans” in December 2013. Despite its short time in existence, the blog’s Facebook page has gained over 850 likes and hosted nearly 300 photos.
In addition to documenting events like the Stanford Spoken Word Collective’s BODIES workshop and the Lunar New Year Festival, Son said that he focuses on capturing photos and quotes from members of the campus community—from students to the Saxophone Man.
“I bike around until I find somebody who catches my eye for whatever reason. There’s no method to it,” Son said. “I approach whoever happens to look interesting to me at that particular time.”
Rather than using a recorder or taking notes, Son said that he recalls quotes from memory.
“Getting exact quotes isn’t my main concern,” he explained. “There’s always a spirit to what someone is saying, and I want to capture that and their voices.”
While a “Humans of Stanford” page had previously sought to emulate “Humans of New York,” Son emphasized the unrelated nature of his effort.
“That page hadn’t been updated in a really long time so I figured it would be okay to start my own,” Son said. “I’m not worried about if other people do it anyway—I don’t feel a sense of competition.”
Son framed his objectives as extending beyond just replicating “Humans of New York,” noting that assuming a role in the editing process has merits of its own.
“I started the page for my own sanity,” Son said. “It let me channel some of my frustration into something artistic.”
“I want to disregard the political implications of photography,” he added. “Like my favorite street photographer, Garry Winogrand, I have a strong affiliation for pure aesthetics. There are multiple photos I don’t end up posting if I, as a photographer, failed to capture something interesting.”
However, students have expressed mixed responses to the page.
“I think it’s good—it makes people happy,” said Katrina Gutierrez ’16, a past subject of a “Stanford Humans” photo. “I’m not really sure what his mission is though. And the quote wasn’t accurate—that’s not actually what I said. But I didn’t really care. The photo was fine.”
“After he approached me, I didn’t think anyone would read my quote because the page seemed pretty boring, unlike ‘Humans of New York’,” commented another subject, who wished to remain anonymous. “He just asked me what classes I was taking and what my major was. He also got my quote wrong.”
Son said that he is undecided as to how long he will continue to update “Stanford Humans.”
“I don’t know…until it’s not an engaging exercise for me,” Son said. “There’s no concrete reason I’m doing this other than [that] I like it. So if that ever changes, I don’t feel like I have a responsibility to keep it up.”
Contact Tiffany Lam at tlam28 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.