The humans of Fordham University finally met the founder of Humans of New York.
Speaking to about 1,400 students who crowded the Lombardi Fieldhouse on Thursday night, Brandon Stanton, whose blog in which he talks to people on the streets of New York and takes their picture is a social media sensation, told his story and gave life lessons to eager students.
Stanton spoke as part of the Spring Weekend Lecture Series- it was his first speaking engagement at a university in New York.
The founder of HONY (as it’s often abbreviated) first outlined his approach, saying that he stops random people on the street, takes their picture and then talks to them for 15 minutes with a specific aim in mind.
“I want to get a kernel of their emotional life,” Stanton said. “I want to tell stories of people on the street as vividly and intimately as possible.”
Stanton started the blog after he lost his job as a bond trader in Chicago. Having recently taken up photography, he taught himself different camera angles and came to New York with the “crazy” idea of photographing 10,000 people. With just two suitcases in hand. Stanton moved into a sublet in Brooklyn.
This impulse resulted in a blog whose photos get an average 100,000 likes each on Facebook. Though Stanton didn’t start out with that goal, he told students that his story proves that holding back isn’t always the best way forward.
“Don’t wait for the perfect time to start doing something you love,” Stanton said.
Stanton, who admits he is not a photography expert, said students should set themselves apart from the pack with more than just talent alone.
“It’s more important to be different than to be good,” Stanton said. “But I had to earn that difference.”
Stanton also said that the only way he gets better is by pushing himself to go out and take photos every day. He urged students to emulate this in whatever field they pursue.
“The only thing you can control is how hard you work,” Stanton said.
There were some moments of levity during Stanton’s talk. He shared a humorous anecdote about giving a speech in Dubai, at which both he and the “Arab Jay Leno” were greeted with silence.
Stanton, who has taken photos in war zones, also said that the attitude of New Yorkers is what sets them apart.
“I’ve been to Iraq, Iran and South Sudan, but no one turns me down more than in New York City,” Stanton said.
Before the event, the line of students clamoring to get inside stretched from the fieldhouse to near O’Hare Hall.