Humans of New York is the brainchild of New York City-based photographer Brandon Stanton. Started in 2010, Stanton’s street-portrait photoblog has garnered critical acclaim and even a best-selling book. With only a camera in hand, Stanton hits the streets of New York City capturing photos and stories from random people. The photos and stories are then shared on Facebook and Instagram, but one thing always remains the same: The people in Stanton’s photos are anonymous. No names are ever shared.
This week Stanton shared a photo and story of a woman that have captured the world’s attention. So far the photo has garnered more than 1 million likes and close to 60,000 shares. The photo accompanies the story of a woman who went from being a teen mother to a controller at her company:
I had a child when I was 16. I got kicked out of high school because of all the absences. My family and community pretty much wrote me off. But right away I got a job at a sporting-goods store. Soon I was able to get a job as a receptionist at a tax company, and they gave me enough responsibilities that I learned how to do taxes. Eventually I learned enough to become an associate. Then I got offered a job at a smaller company, and even though it was a pay cut, they offered me responsibility over all the books—accounts payable, accounts receivable, everything. It was less money but I wanted that experience so I took the risk. And I’m so glad I did, because six months later, the controller of that company left and I was given that position. They told me they couldn’t officially call me the controller because I didn’t have a college degree. So I finished my degree five months ago—just to make it official! So after having a child at 16, I made it all the way to controller of a company, without even having a college degree. Can you believe that? Honestly, I’ve been waiting to tell that story so long that I told it to a customer-service representative on the phone last week. She was nice about it and pretended to care.
Although the woman’s name was never shared, the comments following her photo show that she’s provided many people in similar situations with hope and encouragement. It also allowed others to share their success stories and praises for the woman.
It’s these types of stories that people need to hear more of. Instead of spouting statistics and shaming people because of choices they’ve made in life, encouragement and upliftment should be the proper protocol. But that would be too much of the right thing to do.
Thankfully, Humans of New York shows the world on a daily basis that there are humans out there who care and have succeeded in life despite their circumstances and naysayers.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.