Started by photographer Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York is a New York City-based photoblog that has received critical acclaim from The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Village Voice for its introspective look at NYC residents. Armed with only a camera and an intuitive need to find compelling stories, Stanton traverses the mean streets of New York, capturing photos and tales from random individuals. We have collected 80 heart-warming stories from this Instagram account for you read. Have a beautiful day, friends.

51

I haven’t been able to work since my heart surgery. It’s been several years since I lost my apartment. Now I have memory problems. I can remember things from my childhood, but lots of important things I’m forgetting. I think I’m about sixty years old but I lost my social security card and ID. When I have a thought in my brain, I forget it before it comes out of my mouth. I sleep on the street. I come here every day for warmth. During the day I can’t go anywhere else because they don’t let me inside. There’s a lot of provocation out there. I can’t stand anywhere for long. People call the police. They don’t trust me. They think I’m a terrorist. I have to keep moving because my heart can’t handle the confrontation. I get very weak. My whole body trembles. Sometimes I pass out. People approach me from agencies but I don’t trust them. I don’t trust anyone. They want to get my benefits so they can steal them. When your memory is bad, they steal your benefits. I just need to get healthy so I can remember exactly what happened


52

We’re just taking a trip to the city to celebrate our fifth anniversary. We met in a college theater production. It was a dark comedy about the Catholic Church set in the middle ages. Our characters were engaged to be married, but then I thought she jumped off a bridge. So I became a monk. And she became a lady of the night. Luckily we reunited when she tried to steal relics from my church by pretending to be a corpse. We did have a kiss scene. But she couldn’t kiss back because she was pretending to be dead. The director envisioned an upside-down ‘Spider-Man’ kiss because that had just come out. I leaned in over the top of her forehead. It wasn’t much. No tongue. At least not on stage


53

My mom had her own issues, so I was never really parented. I spent most of my time alone. Cereal out of the box. Packets of ketchup. The occasional cold chicken finger that she’d bring back from a night of partying. I left the house when I turned twelve and started staying with school friends every night. By thirteen I was making my own money from acting gigs and extra work. And by sixteen I was completely on my own. I couldn’t balance school and work so I dropped out in the ninth grade. I worked in record stores. I started photographing bands and then moved into photography. That’s what I’ve been doing the last twenty years. Lots of commercial stuff. Lots of happy family snappies in the park. But these last few years I’ve moved into fine art photography. And the whole ‘art thing’ really requires me to put myself out there. It’s personal. So I’ve had to confront my past. I’m sensitive about my lack of education. I don’t have a degree or the sense of entitlement that comes along with it. Sometimes it can feel like a closed door. Like I don’t belong. It can be difficult to self-advocate. Or stay confident in the face of rejection. Or own my space when I’m dealing with someone that is difficult. Ironically my husband and I have a lot of friends who are authors, or professors, or film directors. They’re all very educated. I just never had the chance. I had to zig and zag and do whatever I could to survive. But I got here. I’m attending my own art show this afternoon. And you know what? Talking through this stuff just made me realize that I’m proud of myself


54

My entire childhood was geared toward college. My father worked at IBM for thirty years, and he expected me to get a degree. It was never toxic. He didn’t push me toward a particular career. He just always wanted me to work toward a goal. I made good grades in high school. I studied chemistry in college because that was my favorite subject. I planned on being a teacher. Freshman year went great. But soon the classes got more specialized and difficult. I tried working harder, but that didn’t seem to help. I began to feel like a failure. My behavior changed. I started skipping classes. I overslept my alarm. Some days I wouldn’t even get out of bed to eat. If I did get out of bed, it was usually just to play video games. My grades began to drop. But I remained in denial for the longest time. I didn’t think I deserved to be depressed. I had a great childhood. A great family. I did well in school. But the denial caused the depression to snowball. Because over and over again I’d ask myself why, and I could never pinpoint the answer-- which made me even sadder. My best friend suggested that I leave school and get a job. He thought it would force me to get into a routine. And he was right. I started working at a silicone plant in Albany. Some days I wanted to die, but it got me out of bed every day. And that had always been the most difficult thing. Soon I was going to the gym. And hanging out with friends again. It’s been six years since I left school. I’m feeling pretty good. I manage a liquor store now. I work hard. I make decent money. Maybe going back to college is the next step, but I’m not in a hurry to find out. Right now I’m fine with not progressing-- because I feel content where I am. If I’m stuck, it’s definitely not a bad stuck


55

I’m on my fifth job in eleven years. It’s not that I don’t do good work. The layoffs have always been tied to company performance, or just being in the wrong position at the time. But the instability has caused me to rethink my relationship to work. My first job out of college—I lived and breathed work. I managed a team. I was always available. I’d answer emails at midnight. I took work calls on my wedding day. And I never minded. I felt like the magical cog that kept everything going, and that indispensability was a big part of my confidence. So I took it pretty personally when I got laid off. Dozens of people lost their job that day, but I still saw it as a personal failure. After that I was forced to separate my identity from work. I’m trying to measure myself on how I interact with friends and family. Or how well I support my husband. I’m not checking emails right before bed anymore. Or right when I wake up. I’m offline during the holidays. Because I know the company will be perfectly fine without me. And the work will always be there when I get back


56

Venezuela always seemed safe to me. I grew up in one of the valleys. We lived in a gated community. As a child I always felt secure. We’d walk home from school. We’d stay out late. Nobody I knew had ever been robbed. But when I was ten years old, my mother got kidnapped on the way home from the grocery store. It was only for twenty-four hours. The guy just wanted drugs. But things seemed to change after that. It didn’t feel safe anymore. I was very lucky because I’m a swimmer. I broke a national record when I was fourteen. So it was easy for me to leave the country. I just emailed my times to a bunch of coaches in the United States, and ended up getting a full scholarship to a school in California. We were privileged. So most of my friends were able to leave. My dad and brother got out with tourist visas. But my mother stayed behind. She doesn’t speak English and wanted to remain with her friends. We support her as best we can by sending money home. She doesn’t tell me much. She protects me from the specifics. I just feel so helpless about the situation. I try to avoid the news. I stay off social media. I’d rather not know if people from my childhood are eating out of trash bags. Or if they’re dying because they can’t get medicine. I can’t handle any more stress. I already spend 75 percent of my day thinking about it. Right now I’m on my way to swim. It’s the only way I can escape the thoughts


57

I’m from a small city in the south of Spain. It’s known for skydiving. In 1991 there was a huge event with delegations from all over Europe. I was a twenty-four year old interpreter at the time, and they assigned me to the president of the skydiving union. His name was Michel. He was a retired soldier from France. He’d been part of The Resistance, and still had a number tattooed on his arm from his time in a concentration camp. We spent four days together. Nothing romantic happened, but there was something forbidden about it. He was forty years older than me. We’d walk arm-in-arm. He was dignified. He was fascinating. He was charming. And after he went home, we began exchanging letters. It became a beautiful friendship. It lasted for years. But my husband didn’t like it, so eventually I stopped responding. Michel wrote a few more times but eventually gave up. I never gave him an explanation. Recently I discovered the letters while cleaning my room. I decided to look him up on the Internet, but all I found was his obituary. He died four years ago. He was eighty-eight. Right now I’m on a journey through France, collecting information on his life. I found some military records already. Today I’m going to call his wife and ask for an interview. I want to put everything into a book—a tribute of sorts. I don’t know what I’m looking for. It’s just something I feel like I have to do. I want to end the story. (Paris, France)


58

We’ve been together for twenty years now. She stays the first half of the week alone in Paris, and when her last Egyptology class is finished, she joins me in the countryside for the second half of the week. We’ve both been married. We both have grandchildren. And you’d never know by looking at her—but she’s even a great grandmother. We’re not young anymore. Our lives are behind us. So labels aren’t important. From the beginning our only rule was respect. Friendship or love—we don’t make a distinction. Everyone cares except for us. The key word is ‘happy.’ We are happy. And that’s all that matters. (Paris, France)


59

Look at my sister, she is so cute. I miss her so much when I go to Grandma’s house. She is so sweet. I give her toys and she gives them right back to me. All she says is ‘blah, blah, blah.’ I don’t understand any of it. Maybe she’s speaking English. I am so proud of her. Look at her. (Paris, France)


60

I want to be a musical theatre actor. I have six auditions tomorrow. Five the next day. Everyone says this, but you really do hear ‘no’ everyday. It’s not even a ‘no,’ actually. It’s just silence. They never tell you that you didn’t get a part. You just hear nothing at all. There’s a website called Audition Update where people post if they’ve gotten a job offer or call back. It’s a way to let everyone else know that they haven’t been chosen. I used to be on the site all the time. I kept refreshing the page for each of my auditions, waiting for someone to post about a call back. Then I’d check my email to see if I’d gotten one. All I ever wanted was to finally be the person who was able to post. It was pretty toxic. It made me feel inept. I could actually see the people who were getting all the jobs I wanted, and rejection became this tangible thing. I’ve stopped going on the site. I'm trying to focus more on the process and less on the outcome. I’m taking all the energy that I put into my phone, and putting it into my journal instead. I write things that I love about myself. I write everything I can remember about each audition: who was in the room, what was said, things I did well, things I could have done differently. But once it’s on the paper, I let go of it. It helps me stay in the moment. And it helps remind me that the whole reason I'm acting is because I love it


61

My great, great grandmother was a vaudeville dancer. Her husband would do the backstage work. And that’s what every man in my family has done since. My grandfather was the head of the NBC electric shop. My father was a carpenter for Ed Sullivan. My uncle was lead carpenter for All My Children. And anything you see on CNN, me and my team put together. It’s something different every day. My favorite part of the job is the emails I get from producers and directors, thanking me for a job well done. Recently they were doing a story on the chicken tax for CNN Money, so I brought in my chickens from home. That earned me an email with the subject line: ‘You’re the fucking man.’ Once I know somebody’s happy, I move on to the next show. If the audience doesn’t think about my work, then I’ve done my job correctly. Years ago I was working at the opera and we were putting on a performance of Figaro. One of the buildings collapsed during the storm scene. Wasn’t supposed to happen. The whole thing came down right as the curtain was closing. Almost hit the lead singer. Luckily the audience thought it was planned. The critic for the New York Times said it was the best storm scene he’s ever seen on stage


62

My father is schizophrenic. As a child I lived with him every other week. During those times I acted like a second mother. I did everything for him. I’d make all the decisions—even the difficult ones. He lived in the past. He’d bring up fights he had during his childhood. And he was paranoid. Mostly he was paranoid of losing me. He’d call me his ‘soul mate.’ His ‘sunshine.’ It was all very confusing. I was only ten years old. The most hurtful thing was seeing him destroy himself. He was capable of getting a job, especially when he took his medicine. But he was always drunk. He had a lot of homeless friends that took advantage of the situation. They’d take his money. They’d sleep over. And I was the one who had to kick them out. Everything was on my shoulders. I was losing weight. I couldn’t concentrate at school. Eventually I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. One night he got so angry that I locked myself in the bathroom, and I stopped talking to him for four years. No more worrying. No more headaches. I felt a bit guilty, but mostly I just felt free. I could work on my own problems. I could learn about myself. I’m seventeen now, and we’ve started talking again recently. But on my terms. I decide when I want to see him. It’s still complicated, but it’s easier. Because I’ve learned to accept that my father has no interest in improving his situation. And that it’s not my responsibility to make him. (Paris, France)


63

I was a teller at a bank. I was working the front and couldn’t talk on the phone, so she sent me a text. She sent two texts actually. The first one said ‘I’m pregnant.’ And the second one said: ‘It’s twins.’ We weren’t even living together at that point. I was only making $28,000 a year. I wasn’t ready. They were born three months premature. But if my wife was scared, she never showed it. She went from nothing to Mom in no time. She told me exactly what to do. It was never domineering. She just knew. The first months were terrible. We were sleeping two hours a night. I was waking up for work at seven. It felt like I was living in a dream state. And I kept thinking: ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ And that feeling stayed for a long time. Things are a bit easier now. But it never feels like I’m done. I go to work, then come home, then it’s homework, then it’s bed. I’m dead tired at the end of the day. I don’t know if I’m doing a good job. I never felt like Dad. I just felt like some figure they called ‘Dad.’ It somehow felt like my wife was their mom, and I was just there for support. I felt like a babysitter. Like I was watching someone else’s kids. I never knew what a dad was supposed to be like. It wasn’t in me. I didn’t know how to show it. I took care of them. I loved them. But I didn’t really hug or kiss them. I wasn’t comfortable with it. Probably because it was never done to me. But I’m different now. I hug and kiss them every night. But that’s because they taught me. They’d come up to me and say ‘Daddy, I love you.’ And they’d hug me and kiss me. So that’s what I do now. But it didn’t come from me. Everything came from them


64

I’m from a town with one traffic light. It’s mostly antique shops. There aren’t really any bars and all the restaurants close by eight. So there’s not much opportunity socially or professionally. I thought I’d have a house by now. And a wife. And kids. But I’m still living in my parent’s basement. Mostly it’s to save money and pay off loans, but it’s also comfortable. My family is Italian. We eat dinner together every Sunday. My sisters bring their families over, and I get to see my nieces and nephews. Everyone I love is there. It’s really important to me. A couple years back I had an opportunity to work in Chicago, but I turned it down. I told them my family needs me, which is the perfect excuse. Because who’s going to question it? But I don’t think it was the real reason. I think I’m leaning on my family to avoid taking risks. Every night when I come home, my dinner is waiting for me. I don’t have to struggle. I don’t have to progress and grow and get past problems. I’m beginning to feel stagnant. So I already told my boss: once an opportunity comes to move to the west coast, I’m taking it


65

I’ve made my name now. I’m a journalist. I live in a nice neighborhood. But it was hard growing up in Paris as a black girl. I’m from the island of Martinique. It used to be a French colony. There were no jobs on our island, so I came to study in Paris at the age of twelve. Things were very difficult. I was one of the only black students at my school. There was a lot of racism. One teacher especially made my life difficult. She taught economics. It wasn’t my best subject because I was more interested in literature, so occasionally I’d talk to my friend during class. And the teacher failed me for ‘disrespecting her.’ She told me to go back to ‘the coconut islands.’ She said I’d never amount to anything in life. I ended up pursuing a more artistic path. And a few years later I became the principal dancer in a big musical. It was a showcase of music from my island. Many famous musicians participated. I convinced my white friend to invite that economics teacher to the performance. She had no clue I was involved. When the show was over, I walked straight into the audience, found her seat, and asked: ‘Does this count as doing something with my life?' (Paris, France)


66

We’d get in these blowout fights whenever she asked me to stop drinking. She’d try to tell me to slow down. Or that my behavior was ridiculous. Or that she loved me and she wanted me to be healthy. But it just seemed like she was trying to interfere with my life. Your own selfishness becomes completely invisible when you’re that addicted. And the more a person cares-- the more they become an obstacle. It’s horrible because you start hating them for loving you. It would be so much easier to escape if nobody cared. But somehow she stayed. It’s hard to imagine why because she had every reason to go. But this summer we’re getting married. And I’ll be three years sober this April


67

You can do things when you’re six that you can’t do when you’re three like my little sister is. One thing is ice skate I guess, which I’ve done like maybe two times. I fell down a lot and it felt kinda frustrating because it’s kinda frustrating when you keep falling but you have to keep your eyes open even if you’re scared. On the fifth or seventh time around I didn’t even fall and I even did a fancy twirl jump but not in real life just in my imagination


68

I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the accident at South By Southwest a few years back. A car plowed into a crowd of pedestrians. Four people died. Twenty-five were injured. I was the twenty-fifth. I broke my back and neck in four places. The driver was fleeing from the police in a stolen car. He was twenty-one years old. His name was Rashad. A lot of people in my life thought he should get the death penalty. But I never had strong feelings about it. Maybe I disconnected from my emotions. Maybe it’s just my personality. But I mostly just felt sad that he’s so young and he’ll be in jail for the rest of his life. Recently I looked up the address of his prison. I purchased a PO Box. And I wrote him three letters. I’ve held onto them for months without sending them. I guess I’m struggling with the fact that empathy is a privilege. I’m still alive. I’m still able to walk. There are people who lost more than me who might be upset that I’m showing him any compassion at all. But I find it curious that I know nothing about somebody who had such a profound impact on my life. All three letters begin the exact same way: ‘We’ve never met, but we were in the same place at the same time.’ I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I just figure there’s something to be said. And I’d like to figure out what that is


69

My dad came to America in the 90’s. He worked at one of those stalls on 34th street selling ‘I Love New York’ t-shirts and plastic Statues of Liberty. One of his coworkers had a sister back in Bangladesh-- which was my mom. The whole thing was arranged over the phone. Even the wedding was done over the phone. Everyone was on the line: my grandparents, my uncles, the Islamic priest. My parents didn’t even meet in person until five months after the wedding. I’m the oldest child in our extended family. Plus I’m the first one to grow up in America, so everyone is watching me. I’m like the lab rat for the American Dream. I was initially told that I was going to be a doctor. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my SpongeBob chair, practicing my numbers and letters. In first grade my parents hired my kindergarten teacher to tutor me after school. My mother would actually negotiate with my teachers during parent-teacher conferences. When I didn’t have a perfect grade in 5th grade science, she convinced my teacher to let me build a baking soda volcano for extra credit. We didn’t have food coloring so we used Bengali spices for the lava. Right now I’m in my first year of college. My parents have let go of the doctor thing. I think they trust me now because they’ve seen me accomplish a lot of things. But I still feel a lot of pressure. A lot of people are watching me back in Bangladesh. The sense of family is so big there. If one person gets lifted up, everyone gets lifted up. So everyone wants me to do well. And I want to do well for them


70

I don’t know why my mother hated me. She had a sickness that you could not see. But she convinced me that I was sick. And that everything was because of me. And that I’m a monster. She criticized everything. My way of eating. My way of speaking. My way of dressing. Anything that brought me joy-- she would deny me. If I defended myself, she would hit me. I was terrified of lunch and dinner because that’s when I had to face her. I spent my entire childhood alone. I just played with my cats in the garden. Or sat on the floor of my bedroom. I’d try so hard to leave my body because I didn’t want to be on earth. And that’s when the spirits and fairies would come to me. Even Mother Mary came to me. I was never afraid of them. They’d comfort me. I remember being seven years old, sitting alone beneath a tree, talking to the fairies. Another little girl walked up and asked what game I was playing. That’s when I realized nobody else could see what I was seeing. And it’s been a very lonely existence since then. (Paris, France)


71

We dated for two years. He looked great on paper. He was a composer. He was tall and handsome. He convinced me that we were soul mates. And he was big into grand gestures. One time he rented a convertible, handed me a foldout map of Canada, and said: ‘Pick anywhere you want to go.’ He did keep cheating on me, but he’d blame that on his bipolar disorder. He’d tell me that his high sex drive was a medical condition. And I believed him. Because I was young, and stupid, and in love. For my twenty-fifth birthday we were going to take a vacation to Seattle. He’d just gotten back from a two-week trip to Israel. He was really quiet on the train ride to the airport. And just as we’re arriving, he tells me that he met someone in Israel. I start crying. He’s stone faced. I’m thinking if we can just get on the flight, everything will be fine. We go all the way through security and get to the gate. At this point I’m musical theater girl sobbing. Our flight begins boarding. Everyone is staring at us. Eventually we’re the last two left, and the gate agents are waiting for us to make a decision. So I decide we should go home. But he insists that I let him buy me a ticket to Chicago, so I can spend my birthday with my family. So that’s what I did. And the next day he calls me to wish me a happy birthday-- from Nashville. He’d flown out that same night. To visit the girl he met in Israel. That was the last I spoke to him. But he did email me a few years ago to tell me that he’d written a musical about his life. The airport scene was included. And he wanted me to attend the show


72Today in microfashion


73

Eighteen is when I started fully dressing up and doing make-up. I came out to my girlfriend when I was twenty-one. I told her ‘I think I might be trans.’ And she said: ‘I know already. Because you’ve always looked at me the way a woman looks at another woman.’ She began to address me as my female name. She’d come with me to the make-up counter so I wouldn’t feel awkward. But I’d still only dress up at home. I felt ashamed. In public I did everything I could to suppress that side of me. I’d wear baggy jeans and plaid shirts at work. I grew a long beard. I’d laugh at homophobic jokes. But inside I felt like an absolute depressed shit. I started keeping a private Instagram account where I followed people in the trans community, and one day I saw a post from a girl in Queens. She was looking to make some trans friends in real life. When I messaged her, she invited me to a party in New Jersey where a bunch of cross dressers rent out a bar. I didn’t even consider it. I didn’t know these people. And I’d never even gone outside of the house before. But she video chatted with me as her guy self, and talked me into joining. The night of the party I was scared as fuck. I’d laid out all my clothes: ripped skinny jeans, Johnny Cash T-shirt, red and black wig. I had my make-up picked out. But I didn’t think I could do it. I felt like I was going to throw up. But I managed to walk downstairs and get into her car. She was pumping me up the whole way there. I smoked one last cigarette in the parking lot, and followed her into the party. The first thing I heard someone say was: ‘Oh God. She brought a real woman with her this time.’ I was over the moon


74

I grew up on a farm in Florida. It was almost like we lived in a time capsule. Nothing but ass whoopings and hard work: raking the yard, feeding chickens, tending horses, planting fields. And my family was Jehovah’s Witnesses. So we had to follow the Bible. We had to do every single thing. There was no room for metaphors or interpretation. It was almost cultish. I only had two guilty pleasures: playing in the woods, and horror movies. Once a month my older sister would take me to the mall. She’d pretend I was her daughter and sneak me into horror movies. I was only nine or ten years old but we saw them all: Poltergeist, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street. She’d cover my eyes when there was a sex scene, which pissed me off, but everything else I saw. I just loved seeing out-of-control maniacs on the screen. My entire life had always been so controlled. I loved the feeling of being afraid: everything runs through you, spine tingling, fight or flight. It made me feel alive


75

We worked in the same IT department. I think our colleagues knew earlier than we did. Whenever we’d go out, they kept trying to sit us next to each other. She always seemed really interested in me. She’d ask me a lot of questions. But I felt really nervous because I’d never had a girlfriend before, and I didn’t want to mess it up. So I kept things professional for about eight or nine months. But then one night a group of us went to the club. We were all having fun until a tall, blonde guy asked her to dance. I had to think quickly. I knew it was time to make a move. Somehow I needed to separate them, but I didn’t want to escalate the situation. This was a very tall man. So I thought: ‘It’s time to dance. You need to dance now.’ I wasn’t quite ready because I hadn’t had enough to drink. But thankfully I’d just learned some dance moves from the movie Hitch. Slowly I wedged myself between them. I backed in-- butt first, using my special moves. I didn’t even make eye contact with the guy. Thankfully he gave up. We danced together for about an hour. At some point the rest of our colleagues went to the bar and left us all alone. That’s when she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek.

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