By Caitlin O’Shea
When Brandon Stanton lost his job as a bonds trader, he decided to take portraits of strangers on the streets of New York City. What began as a hobby soon grew into a worldwide social phenomenon known as Humans of New York (HONY), chronicling the lives of strangers and sharing them with the world.
With more than nine million followers on Facebook and a New York Times bestseller, Stanton has created a vibrant blog and sense of community within his work as he incorporates photographs and snippets of conversations with his subjects.
When approaching strangers on the street, Stanton often asks, "What is your biggest regret?", provoking answers that are profoundly personal.
Recently Stanton partnered with the United Nations in a 50-day trip to help promote the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating extreme hunger and poverty and achieving universal primary education.
Photos on the Facebook page and HONY website are heartbreaking. One photograph is from Petra, Jordan, of a father and young son with the caption: "He lived with his mother in Gaza when he was very young. One night, I talked to him on the phone before bedtime, and he told me he was wearing three pairs of pants to bed. I said, 'Three pairs of pants? Why aren't you in your pyjamas?' He told me: 'Because I want my body to hold together if a bomb falls on me'."
Through God’s eyes every story mattersThe true beauty of HONY is found in the comments section under each photograph connecting strangers across continents. One comment reads: "In just a few days these photographs have done more to humanise the Middle East than 40 years of US media coverage."
Stanton arrived in Erbil, Iraq, just before ISIS militants had taken Mosul Dam and Sinjar Mountain and many of his photographs feature Yazidi refugees fleeing towards refugee camps.
"What's struck me the most is how much a humanitarian tragedy is magnified when you break it into individual stories," Stanton told ABCNews America.
Sharing everyday people's lives, without prejudice or judgement, no matter where they come from or what they believe, is what makes HONY such a wonderful project.
Likewise can be said for our individual stories. Through God's eyes, every story matters.?
"I grew up, like, savage. My stepfather abused me starting at the age of four. My mother threw me out when I was fourteen.
I became addicted to drugs. I fell in love with a drug dealer and we had a daughter. He hit me but I had nowhere else to go.
I tried to get away from everything when I turned nineteen. I thought: 'I'm leaving Puerto Rico and I'm going to change.'
But on the plane to New York, the guy next to me was a heroin user. And he convinced me to try it. And things got worse in New York. It was even harder because I was alone.
I ended up on the street. I was jumping from house to house. I was doing what I had to do to survive, you know. The government took my children away.
I was lost for so many years but I'm a new person now. I'm sober and I'm working and I'm going to church. But I struggle a lot. I have all these emotions and I don't know where they come from. It's like I can't control them. And when I'm with other people, I feel less.
My past always comes back to me. I say to myself: 'Who do you think you are? You've done so many bad things. And you don't even know how to talk right.'
I can never get away from the things that I've done. But Jesus forgives me, you know? He knows that I'm a sinner person and He still loves me. My past does not matter to Him. He is changing my thinking. He is helping me start new. Without Him, I would have nothing to hang onto."
Article courtesy of WarCry Magazine