‘Humans of New York’ Is Suddenly a War Report From Iraq

Emily Dreyfuss in Wired:

HONY-UN-660x386My favorite thing on the internet might be your favorite thing, too. As of right now 8.8 million people “like” it on Facebook. Humans of New York, the photo blog and Facebook page run by Brandon Stanton, is a bulwark of hope in what sometimes feels like an onslaught of despair. And as of yesterday, it’s operating from a warzone. In case you’re not familiar, Brandon takes a photo of a stranger on the street (usually in New York City, but notably sometimes as far away as Iran) and posts a snippet of conversation with the subject. Somehow this snapshot manages to capture a whole life, and with it parts of our lives, too, our hopes and dreams and sorrows.

…That’s why right now Brandon is travelling with the U.N. on a World Tour. This is not the first time he has partnered with the U.N.: he spoke at the 37th UNIS-UN conference last year. Brandon announced this trip on Wednesday, writing: “The point of the trip is not to “say” anything about the world. But rather to visit some faraway places, and listen to as many people as possible.” While visiting 10 countries, Brandon will be helping to promote the eight Millennium Development Goals that U.N. member states hopes to achieve by 2015, among them eradicating child poverty and hungry and encouraging universal primary education. Commenters have suggested he name the tour Humans of the World, but Brandon is the first to point out that it “would be rather foolish to claim that these portraits and stories somehow represent ‘the world,’ or humanity as a whole.” But, like the snapshots he shares, this glimpse at a part will speak volumes about the whole. He writes, “we hope this trip may in some way help to inspire a global perspective, while bringing awareness to the challenges that we all need to tackle together.” Two days ago he traveled to Iraq. Yesterday morning EST he posted three photos from Irbil, in Kurdistan. Two such photos broke my (and 8 million other people’s) heart. One shows a smiling man in a wheel chair, his underdeveloped legs resting atop a box. This is the caption:

“My happiest moments are whenever I see my mother happy.”
“What’s the happiest you’ve ever seen her?”
“When I was a child, some German doctors told us that I could have a surgery in Italy, and my legs would work again. She was so happy she started crying. But I never had the money to go.”

The next photo is a close up of the man’s phone, his hands and feet out of focus in the background. On the screen is an image he photoshopped of his face onto a healthy body, “to see what I would look like.”

More here.