“I think the similarities I’ve noticed are the aspirations of people. It seems that everywhere I go, people want the same things—security, education, family. It’s just that so many people have no avenues through which to obtain these things.”
~ Brandon Stanton
Brandon Stanton, the creator of the wildly popular blog/slash/social media phenomenon, Humans of New York is on the road, visiting 11 countries on a tour sponsored by the United Nations.
So far on his international trip, he has photographed residents in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. He is now in Ukraine and will travel to India, Vietnam, Ecuador and Haiti as well.
So, basically, he went from this:
I normally go into my conversations with a set of proven questions to ask, that I find will elicit a wide variety of anecdotes from people’s lives: happiest moment, saddest moment, things like that. But with people fleeing war, it is absolutely impossible to discuss anything beyond the present moment.
Their circumstances are so overpowering, there is absolutely zero room in their minds for any other thoughts. The conversation immediately stalls, because any topic of conversation beyond their present despair seems grossly inappropriate. You realize that without physical security, no other layers of the human experience can exist. “All they do is cry for home,” she told me.
A little girl in Iraq. “She speaks more languages than anyone in the family because she plays with all the children in the street.”
A man and his son in Jordan. “How did I become a community leader? Every time there’s a wedding, I go to say: ‘Congratulations.’ Every time there’s a funeral, I go to say: ‘I’m sorry.’”
A woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “She said she’d let me take her photo if I bought some peanuts from her. Afterward, I asked if she could remember the saddest moment of her life. She laughed, and said: “You’re going to need to buy some more peanuts.”
Two teenage checker players in Kenya. “Who’s the better player?”
“I am. He’s too scared to sacrifice his pieces. He hasn’t learned that sometimes you need to lose two to gain three.”
A young mother and her daughter at Tongping Internally Displaced Persons Site in South Sudan. “I’ve seen a lot of death.”
A family in Uganda. “What’s the most important thing your mother has taught you?”
“If you buy food, you should always eat it with someone else.”
A mother in Ukraine. “What’s your greatest struggle right now?”
“I adopted a son about six months ago. He’s three-and-a-half years old, and we’ve been having difficulty with his behavior. If he was here right now, he’d be running around, pulling up plants, and hitting things with sticks. He’s spent all his life in an orphanage, and was deprived of adult attention. The psychologist tells us that’s the reason he’s acting out.”
“What’s been your happiest moment with your son?”
“One morning I was standing in the kitchen, and he hugged me without me asking.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photography by Brandon Stanton