5 Things I Learned at Brandon Stanton’s Lecture

On September 15th, Brandon Stanton, creator of social media sensation Humans of New York, spoke to a sold-out crowd in the Tate Grand Hall. Stanton was surprisingly soft-spoken, but made the crowd laugh throughout his inspiring speech. Here are the the five things I learned at Brandon Stanton’s lecture.

1. Stanton wasn’t always a photographer.

After two years of working in finance in Chicago, Stanton lost his job. He described the job as life-consuming - he could be front row at a concert and still thinking of the stock market. He was in no way passionate about finance, but enjoyed making money. When the stock market crashed in 2008, he decided he would figure out how to do what he loved full-time and still make enough money to survive. Stanton didn’t consider himself a good photographer, but did it for fun, and used his camera as a way to get away from his job. He began photographing things in Chicago, but decided he needed to move to New York City. Stanton brought up a funny story of selling a former co-worker one of his photographs for $300 in order to have enough money to make his move to NYC.

2. The vision of HONY has changed over the years.

When Stanton started the blog in 2010, it was originally just going to be photos of 10,000 New Yorkers. This changed when he took a photo of a woman and she gave him an interesting quote. He decided to post the photo even though he didn’t like the angle, and write her quote as the caption. (You can google “Green Lady Humans of New York” to find her!) This went viral, and Stanton realized that the concept of HONY had to change. The pictures are now secondary. HONY’s audience wants a deep look into a complete stranger’s life. Stanton admitted his interviews used to take ten minutes, but now take an hour on average. He said they can become more like therapy sessions. “We talk about relationships and deep shit,” Stanton said. Sometimes he learns things that have been internalized for ten years and this is the first time his interviewee is talking about it. Stanton said this is only possible because HONY’s audience is “the nicest group of people on the internet”. The comments on HONY are supportive and non-judgemental, and his various social medias absolutely wouldn’t work if the comments were just rude.

3. Don’t wait for perfect.

Throughout his lecture, Stanton repeated the statement, “Don’t wait for perfect.” Stanton said this is the advice he gives whenever a fan asks him for words of wisdom. Stanton emphasized the importance of hard work. “Following your dream is working hard all the time,” Stanton told the sold-out crowd. You can’t wait for a fail-proof opportunity to fall into your lap, you have to work for it. Stanton said you can’t wait for perfect to happen, you have to work for what you want. Stanton’s current goal is to be the best person to stop random people in New York City and get them comfortable enough with him to be okay revealing majorly personal information.

4. Question and answer.

After giving his lecture, Stanton took questions from the audience. He answered a question about the Syrian refugee crisis and highlighted the importance of empathy between groups of people. Stanton was also asked which story from HONY resonated with him the most and answered it was the interview he did with a woman recently, but it wasn’t clear which post that was. A member of UGA’s Chapel Bell asked him if there’s anything he wished he had done at UGA, and he said with a campus this size, there were thousands of stories that were waiting to be told. Stanton recently interviewed Hillary Clinton and was asked if he would interview Donald Trump. Stanton answered that he believes Trump is a demagogue, and “any attempt at normalizing Donald Trump is a sin.” 

5. Calling the dawgs.

Stanton majored in History at the University of Georgia, but admitted to the crowd that during his first attempt at college, he “flamed out" and didn’t attend class. He had to work his way back to UGA, but during his second go-through, he made mostly A’s with a few B’s. Stanton addressed a few people in the crowd, including a Bolton cafeteria worker and former professor of his. The final question of the Q&A asked Stanton to “call the dawgs”, and though he claimed he didn’t remember the words, the crowd helped him out. It was the perfect end to the alumnus' lecture. 

Photo Credits: https://twitter.com/ugaunionhttps://twitter.com/ugaalumniassochttps://www.facebook.com/uga.edu/