“Humans of New York:” This Is Not Your Mother’s New York

How often can you find a book with 400-plus gorgeous photos that’s reasonably priced, not awkwardly sized or ridiculously heavy to pick up? That’s what I got when I bought Humans of New York, which I think is one of the most exciting and best photography books I’ve seen. I’m not a connoisseur, but I do love photography books and have a cherished, though modest collection that I started acquiring in the 1970s with my first one, The Family of Man.

Humans of New York

Humans of New York

Photographer Brandon Stanton captures so much that is right about New York: the posturing, the beautiful women, kids being kids, fragile senior citizens, hipsters, hairstyles, fashions, kooky antics, faces and especially the smiles. The collection looks like it took a year or more of pounding sidewalks to find worthy material but remarkably, Humans of New York was a 2010 summer project.

His book isn’t laden with excess description and verbiage. When Stanton labels a photo, he gets it just right with a few words, or he let’s the subject explain him or herself, such as the pretty girl with an attitude and fabulous hair, who says: “I’m going to let you take my photo because you seem like a genuine person. But just so you know — I don’t normally let people steal my swag.” Most of the color photos evoke a sense of joy, but when Stanton flirts with the seamy side of New York life, you still feel the humanity. I will never again gaze upon a manic grin, or an elderly man wearing a fairy costume or hear some crazy talk, without cutting that person a lot of slack.

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