The wildly popular Humans of New York project started out as a way for photographer Brandon Stanton to appreciate the everyday lives of strangers. Only a couple of years later, he ended up with more than 10,000 portraits and a best-selling book. For the past several days, though, Stanton has shifted his focus to documenting the journeys of Syrian refugees and migrants.
Writing on Facebook to HONY's 15 million fans, Stanton said the broader reasoning for his new mini-project was to document the sheer scale of Syrian migration: "These migrants are part of one of the largest population movements in modern history. But their stories are composed of unique and singular tragedies." The effort distinctively embodies the philosophy of helping others by using the skills you have — in this case, Stanton is using his mass social media following to share with the world how a few people survived living in the Syrian war.
Political crises have long been a key area of interest for photojournalists, but their photos usually appear in magazines or media publications. A similar project by Ed Kashi earlier this year highlighted racism in Europe on Instagram.
Documenting migration forced by Syria's violent crisis
By using the recognizable HONY format (casual, first-person interviews), Stanton is helping American audiences better understand the human costs of the Syrian crisis one photograph at a time. If a photographer wanted to document stories of all the displaced people, he would need to spend the rest of his life doing so. Of the more than 12 million people who have been forced out of their homes, 4 million have left the country. Below is a map that summarizes the routes of those who have fled Syria:
A commenter on one of Stanton's Facebook posts aptly described the reaction of many who come in contact with his temporary project: "Over the next ten days or so, I'm going to silently weep at my desk."