Brandon Stanton on the purpose of Humans of New York

Brandon Stanton, the author of the best-selling books Humans of New York and Humans of New York: Stories and the blog Humans of New York, sat down for an interview on Sunday’s special Thanksgiving broadcast of “Face the Nation” to talk about gratitude and joy. In an additional web only interview, Stanton explains to moderator John Dickerson the purpose behind his renowned project.

“I think people try to put it (Humans of New York) into a box of showing the commonality of humanity,” Stanton said but added, “my purpose in Humans of New York is not to tell the story of humanity, it’s to tell the story of the person right in front of me.”

While Stanton acknowledges going into his interviews with a “philanthropic motive,” he stresses the importance of going into each interview with “as blank of a slate as possible.”

Legendary sportscaster Vin Scully: "Don't be afraid to dream"

“Face the Nation” moderator John Dickerson asked Stanton about the trick to getting people to share their most personal stories. “It’s so much about energy” Stanton confessed.

“This is something that I had to earn over stopping 10,000 people on the street: is that there’s such a small difference between the energy of an interview and a conversation.” Stanton said. “But there is a world of difference in the replies you get.” 

Stanton described two conflicting “threads” running through people’s minds during his conversations. The first being a feeling of fear and vulnerability and the second being one of validation.

“In New York City there are people walking around with no money, no family and a drug addiction. All they have is their story. It’s the only thing of value that they’re carrying around.” He said. “But it takes somebody else to validate it. It takes somebody else to care about it and wonder about it for it to really have value.”

In keeping up with the weekend’s themes of gratitude and joy, Dickerson asked if there is a common response of gratitude on behalf of the people Stanton interviews as he takes the time to validate their individual stories.

“The best interviews, the ones I feel the best about are the ones where at the end we’re profusely thanking each other. Me thanking them for telling me this amazing story about their lives. And them thanking me for listening.”

For more of our web-only interview with Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton click here.