Digital Rhetoric Through a Lens

I noticed that another blogger already used Humans of NY as an example of digital rhetoric they pay attention to each day, but I couldn’t help but post about HONY as well.

I started following HONY on Facebook a few years ago. I would sometimes go on the page and go through 100s of photos, unable to stop. Some people looked ordinary and had extraordinary photos; some looked fairly unusual and led corporate lifestyles. It taught me a great deal about humanity. You never know how much a person has endured, and you most definitely can’t tell on just a surface level.

The photographer behind the campaign, Brandon Stanton, started it for fun, and then it quickly took off. He must have a gift, because he gets strangers to tell their biggest stories. I ultimately ended up ordering his first book for the coffee table, and it was fun to have some of his photos in book form.

HONY is everywhere, with millions of shares on social networks (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), but if you haven’t looked at any of his work yet, I would highly recommend taking a visit to the Facebook page: HONY

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

A boy tells the story of his experience with school.


UPDATE: Shannon made a comment on my blog about how she has an irrational fear that she would have nothing to say if she were to meet him. I definitely sympathize with that. I’m not sure I’m unique in a way that’s good for a short story…but I think the point of HONY is to prove that everyone has a story, so I’m sure he’s good at prompting the person he’s photographing. I also occasionally wonder how many of the photos he takes land on social media. Does he sift through them at night and then not post some of them because others are more interesting? I kind of hope not, because that takes some of the allure of HONY away.

Kelly Hall

I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying Psychology with minors in Writing and Entrepreneurship. I love writing about community events, especially those involving sports. On campus, I spend most of my time at the Michigan Daily, where I'm a sports editor and writer.

3 thoughts to “Digital Rhetoric Through a Lens”

  1. Hi Kelly,

    I’m so happy you chose Humans of New York as your example! I don’t follow them on Facebook or Instagram, but I find myself going through hundreds of pictures in one sitting when I get in certain moods. Your point about not knowing what people are going through below the surface is so true, and I always find myself appreciating my own situation and opportunities much more after reading the stories.

    I also didn’t know the story behind HONY and how it started as something Brandon Stanton did for fun. I’m sure he can’t believe how much it has grown and changed people’s lives. Have you ever looked at Humans of UMich? I know they have a Facebook account, but I’m not sure how often they post. It definitely seems like Stanton created something lasting that can be adapted for different settings, which makes digital rhetoric so interesting!

  2. Hey Kelly!
    I love Humans of New York! I get so excited when I see their posts on my instagram feed and facebook newsfeed. Every story is somehow interesting even if it’s only a few sentences. There was a really compelling post the other day that was tragic but hopeful. I’m always impressed with how well he is able to communicate emotions in such a small space. I love reading all of them although it gives me an irrational fear that if I were to meet him I’d have nothing interesting to say.

  3. Hey Kelly,

    HONY definitely has some gift, because as you said, the stories he is able to pull out of people on the street is pretty remarkable. And to your update: I have always thought about what I would do if I ran into him, because I live in New York! A couple times he’s actually posted pictures of people right outside my apartment building. He is really great and has become crazy popular in the last year and a bit. I remember following his page when WAY fewer people were liking his stuff, and even when his posts weren’t as good. He has become very good at his craft over time, taking better pictures (that now match up with the words by the angling, lighting, and expression on the subjects’ faces, etc.) His digital rhetoric is interesting and innovative, which I like. It’s interesting to think about where he will take his digital rhetoric – videos, subjective or objective perspective, graphs, documentary, etc. He has his fan base, he has his motives, and he can do anything from here, so long as its visual and provocative.

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