23 Conversations with Strangers in New York
“HONY resulted from an idea that I had to construct a photographic census of New York City. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character.
I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog”
The wildly popular site now boasts a Facebook page with almost 4 million fans. The success has also led to a 304-page hardcover book that instantly became a #1 New York Times bestseller. The book features 400 hundred color photos, including exclusive portraits and stories.
Below you will find a follow-up to the Sifter’s original post last May. There are so many incredible and fascinating stories it was hard to limit to just the ones below. For thousands of more ‘moments’, be sure to check out Humans of New York at the links below.
I asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He screamed: “A benny!” “What’s a benny?” I asked. “That’s his name,” said his mom.
“I was 35 when I met her. I was starting to think that there wasn’t anybody out there for me.”
“A coworker asked for my number the other day. My friends overheard and said: ‘He must have a thing for Indians.’ I was like, ‘Or maybe I’m just really f*cking cool.’”
“Do you remember the saddest moment of your life?” “When my grandmother died. I was nine. Besides my dad, she was the only one in my family who was like this. And she was the only other person who could give me any perspective on what it was going to be like, and how to handle it.”
“I want to be a singer, a president, and a tennis player.” “I want to be a president, a teacher, a doctor, and a police.”
“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?” “I’d tell them the same thing I’d tell one person. That if you understand failure, you won’t be afraid of it anymore. Failure isn’t diving on your face, or hitting rock bottom. That’s just being human. You only fail when you decide to not try again. So it’s entirely in your control. Once you understand failure, it’s impossible to fail.”
“Had cancer six times. Beat cancer six times.”
“I told her that if she wanted to start over, to meet where we first kissed. She was supposed to be here 15 minutes ago.”
“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?” “In every situation, choose love.” “When is it most difficult to choose love?” “When it involves someone close to you.”
Normally I have to approach people for quotes. But this kid walked right up to me, held his certificate in the air, and screamed: “I played at Carnegie Hall!”
“If my battery wasn’t low, I’d pop this thing back on two wheels right now.”
“When he was dying, I said: ‘Moe, how am I going to live without you?’ He answered: ‘Take the love you have for me, and spread it around.”
“I’m 86. And that’s about enough. I’m ready to go.” “Aren’t you afraid of death?” “Why would I be?” “Isn’t that sort of a natural condition of living?” “Not when you miss your husband as much as I do.”
“I want to be an animal rescuer.” “Why do you want to rescue animals?” “Because they’re soft and cuddly.”
“Well there’s this girl that I’m friends with, and you know, I like her, but I don’t know if she likes me…” “Do you mind if I share that?” “I don’t know, if you share it, she might figure it out.” “She’ll definitely figure it out.” “… do it.”
“I lost my thumb in a freak playground accident when I was five. I was really insecure about it for the longest time, but eventually I just learned to have a sense of humor about it. Love your blog, by the way. I’d give it one-and-a-half thumbs up.”
“What’s the secret to selling cookies?” “Smiling.”
“I want to be a princess hairdresser.” “What’s going to be the hardest part about being a princess hairdresser?” “Cutting Rapunzel’s hair.”
“I wish I’d partied a little less. People always say ‘be true to yourself.’ But that’s misleading, because there are two selves. There’s your short term self, and there’s your long term self. And if you’re only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays.”
“I’m not too emotional of a guy. People say I have a good heart, but they’re wrong. I have principles. The heart is a fickle thing. There’s no way I can love everybody. So I’m not even going to try. But I can respect everyone whether I love them or not. And that I try to do.”
“I’ve been working for 45 years, and so has my wife. But we have no money. You know why? Because my five kids have two bachelor’s, a master’s, and two doctorate degrees. They are my wealth.”
“He’s wonderful in bed.”
She was collecting rocks.