At first glance, some of the faces look familiar: a proud father with his daughters; rambunctious boys out for a swim; a shopkeeper with his wares. But the captions, in the words of the subjects, make clear that Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton has left the five boroughs behind.
The shopkeeper, photographed in a Jordan refugee camp, stands amid shelves sparsely stocked with kitchen supplies. “Back in Syria, I sold antiques and Orientals. But they beat me with rifles and knocked out my teeth. Then they burned my store to the ground,” he told Stanton.
Humans of New York, though not without its critics, is a photography website that has won a loyal following for its documentary-style portraits of New Yorkers, offering viewers a small window into the hidden triumphs and pains of faces on the street. Now Stanton is embarking on a 50-day tour of the world, sponsored by the United Nations, to dangerous areas and war zones. So far he has traveled to Iraq, Jordan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; Ukraine, Haiti, and South Sudan are slated for the coming weeks.
For the United Nations, partnering with Stanton paves the way to reaching his sizable social media audience, including 9 million Facebook fans and 1.5 million Instagram followers. UN officials say they are hoping to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals, which aim for “human dignity, equality, and equity” by focusing on objectives related to reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and more.
So far, reactions to the international portraits have been largely positive, with a perhaps expected percentage of soapboxing. “This page restores our faith in humanity,” reads one typical Facebook comment, in response to a photograph of a Jordan grandmother with her daughters and granddaughters.