How one man went from Wall Street reject to New York’s most beloved blogger

rokfudqltio-anthony-delanoix

Written By Aysha Khan, Fellow, VOX Dallas

What do a homeless New Yorker, an aspiring lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo and President Barrack Obama have in common? They were all photographed by Brandon Stanton – and each image has hundreds of thousands of likes on Instagram and Facebook.

Brandon Stanton, a Chicago native, best-selling author and photographer is the creator of the internationally renowned blog, Humans of New York (HONY). With over 20 million followers (and counting) gained in just over six years, Stanton has created an unprecedented online movement that combines artistry and storytelling. Recently, Stanton shared his own success story to an audience of liberal arts students at the University of North Texas. There, he offered four key pieces of advice that helped him get to where he is today.

The road less traveled still requires a security deposit and first month’s rent

Before HONY, Stanton worked as a bond trader. He would eat, sleep and breathe stocks to the point where it consumed his every thought. However, when the stock market crashed, his entire world was flipped upside down. After some reflection, he realized that if he was going to put all his effort into something, it was only worth it if he was truly passionate about the work he was doing.

However, determination for change gets you only half way to where you want to be. Stanton needed to be practical about achieving his dream of doing what he loves all day, every day: photography. New York – as cliché as it seemed – proved to be the most viable option for a carless, unemployed photographer to capture interesting, diverse shots. But to even get there, he needed to make several uncomfortable phone calls to his more well-off friends, offering to sell his work. His first apartment in New York was shared with three other people, and his room consisted of a single mattress.

Work hard, play hard and keep working hard

Pursuing a career in the arts is difficult, often lonely, and not for the weak-hearted. Artists, like other professionals, require some sort of validation in the work they create, and if feedback isn’t received, it’s easy to get discouraged. For Stanton, the most relief he felt was when he got his first real fan. Not a cousin. Not a friend. But someone who was engaged in the work he was creating and followed him on his own merits.

But to get there, Stanton cut out all the nonessentials in his life and solely focused on his photography, day in and day out. His friends thought he was crazy and his family was convinced the work was “glorified unemployment.” And in their defense, Stanton himself meets several artists that fit that mold in New York. Writers who are bent on creating play but lack the discipline to finish a manuscript. Musicians who complain about the difficulty of “making it big in New York,” but choose to spend time partying instead of rehearsing.

Combining passion with implementation is what differentiates Stanton from the former examples. Stanton continued to capture and upload pictures every single day – even on those dark days when he would receive zero Facebook “likes.” It’s because of his consistent hard work that he could identify how to engage his audience and fine-tune his blog into what is today.

Discover what makes your work different. And then own it.

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Caption: “So do you do a different color every day?”; “No, I used to go through different stages. But then I found that I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”

This picture was uploaded on a day in which Stanton was too sick to go outside and photograph. Although the photograph is not his best, composition wise, it garnered 35 “likes” – the most he had ever received. What differentiated this photo from the others? The caption he included with it, which was a conversation he had prior to capturing the photo.

Stanton came to the realization that he wasn’t going to be the world’s best photographer. He didn’t possess the equipment nor the proper training to do so. His real strength was being able to overcome the fear that lies in approaching random strangers on the street and engaging them in conversation. Asking a passerby in the Empire State for a photograph is easier said than done. To this day – even with his fame – Stanton gets rejected 40 percent of the time. “Every ‘yes’ [for a photo] is the same, but every ‘no’ is different,” Stanton jokes when recalling the harsh rejections that he’s received from some New Yorkers.

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A perfect plan doesn’t exist.

The idea Stanton had for HONY is completely different from what the blog embodies today. “The initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants.” However today, Stanton’s focus is on capturing the intimate, raw stories of everyday people – whether that’s the story of a Syrian refugee escaping a volatile country, a stay-at-home mom struggling to juggle work and family commitments, or a teenage couple navigating new love.

Had Stanton waited to come up with the idea of HONY as it is today, it might never have come to light. It was only when he worked day in and day out, did the idea for HONY evolve and grow into what it needed to be. It’s natural for us to desire to plan our dreams “to a T.” Stanton claims it comes from the desire to minimize risk before implementation. “We want to have the most perfect idea, that there’s no chance of failure,” Stanton says. “In a lot of ways, you need to start chasing your dream before you’re even ready.”

Stanton’s advice is applicable to anybody grappling with getting their vision to come to life. Some practicality, persistence and a little uniqueness are at the crux of any innovative idea.

You can scroll through stories from Humans of New York on their website or follow Humans of New York on Facebook or Instagram.

 

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How one man went from Wall Street reject to New York’s most beloved blogger

rokfudqltio-anthony-delanoix

Written By Aysha Khan, Fellow, VOX Dallas
What do a homeless New Yorker, an aspiring lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo and President Barrack Obama have in common? They were all photographed by Brandon Stanton – and each image has hundreds of thousands of likes on Instagram and Facebook.
Brandon Stanton, a Chicago native, best-selling author and photographer is the creator of the internationally renowned blog, Humans of New York (HONY). With over 20 million followers (and counting) gained in just over six years, Stanton has created an unprecedented online movement that combines artistry and storytelling. Recently, Stanton shared his own success story to an audience of liberal arts students at the University of North Texas. There, he offered four key …

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