Humans of New York packs its cameras and heads to the desert: The Middle East edition!

Published August 20th, 2014 - 13:39 GMT

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Iraq
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Image 1 of 15: Stanton found these Yazidi boys banging on cans and asked what they were doing. “We’re building a car,” they said. "Isn’t that cute," he thought. "They’re imagining the cans are cars." Then, using two wires as axles, they turned the cans into wheels, and attached them to the plastic crate lying nearby. They’d built a car. (Dohuk, Iraq)

Iraq
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Image 1 of 15: "We told her to sit with us so we could share her sadness." (Dohuk, Iraq)

Jordan
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Image 1 of 15: "What happened to your arm?" Stanton asked. "I was walking down the stairs and looking at the stars," she replied. (Amman, Jordan)

Gaza
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Image 1 of 15: "He lived with his mother in Gaza when he was very young. One night, I talked to him on the phone before bedtime, and he told me he was wearing three pairs of pants to bed. I said: 'Three pairs of pants? Why aren't you in your pajamas?' He told me: 'Because I want my body to hold together if a bomb falls on me.'" (Petra, Jordan)

Jordan
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Image 1 of 15: "We were engaged for six months, but her parents made her marry a richer man." Stanton asked, "What's the last thing you said to her?" The man replied, "I told her: 'I've done all that I can do. I wish you happiness in your life.'" (Petra, Jordan)

Jordan
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Image 1 of 15: Stanton captioned this shot from Amman, Jordan with, "There's a broken bottle down there!" HONY followers often suggest better captions. Commenting on this image, a fan ad-libbed, “Girl in pink: ‘Don't just stand there, camera guy. DO SOMETHING.’”

Jordan
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Image 1 of 15: "I clean streets. I used to lifeguard at a fancy Dead Sea hotel, but lost my job. I brought mud from the beach to my cousin because it’s good for his skin. My manager said: 'You're stealing!'" A fan left this comment, “I wish I knew which fancy hotel...so I could start a campaign to get guests to take (all) their complementary shampoos...”

Iraq
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Image 1 of 15: This young man in Kalak, Iraq told Stanton,"I'm a student. My parents didn't want me sitting around the house all summer, so they made me be a shepherd." He attracted universal sympathy like this comment,“lol battle cry of parents everywhere!’ If you are bored, I can find something for you to do!’"

Jordan
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Image 1 of 15: An Amman woman told Stanton,"I had five daughters. And my daughters had five daughters. And everyone loves to spend time with Grandma!" But a fan proposed an alternate caption, “She had five daughters. And her daughters had five daughters. Then HONY took their photo. And now 8 million people love to spend time with her grandma!”

Jordan
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Image 1 of 15: "My grandmother remembers the Arab world differently than people view it today. She remembers a place known for music, innovation, and intellectual abilities. I may be naive, but I want to help work toward unity in the Arab world-- both between and within our countries-- so that we can get back to that place again." (Amman, Jordan)

Erbil
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Image 1 of 15: A chat with this Erbil duo drew identical answers: What do you want to do when you grow up? (Doctor) What’s your greatest struggle right now? (Math)... Comments ranged from, “It angers me how ignorant I am. My first thought when seeing this was, there are malls in the Middle East?” to the comical, “Certainly not struggling with fashion!”

Syria
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Image 1 of 15: "I was going to one of my first exams and suddenly there was a bombing. In downtown Damascus! I couldn't believe it! Over the next few weeks, everything changed. Taxis in the streets were replaced by tanks. Before war, you have rights. People will ask why you were killed. When war comes, nobody asks why you were killed anymore." (Erbil, Iraq)

Iraq
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Image 1 of 15: “My parents were captured when I was sixteen. They both died in prison.” Stanton asked, “What do you remember about the day they were taken?” - “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this. Can we stop?” (Shaqlawa, Iraq)

Zaatari Refugee Camp
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Image 1 of 15: This woman is the essence of HONY. Opinionated, feisty, despite the hardships life threw her way. She told Stanton’s Arabic-speaking associate, "This one likes photos too much. If he takes one more photo, I will break his camera. But don't translate that." (Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan)

Brandon Stanton
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Image 1 of 15: Meet 30-year-old Stanton - the man and his technique - by tuning into his Ted Talk. Scan the HONY archives to feel the potency of his vision. A fan wrote,“I used to carry around so much hatred for people until I found this page. I have a good cry every time I read your posts. I can feel a weight being lifted from my shoulders.” Peace, out.

One of America’s sweetest exports just landed in the Middle East. It’s a viral sensation that’s highly addictive. It won’t cause obesity or high blood sugar, but exposure requires immediate “open-your-heart” surgery!  

Humans of New York (known to fans as HONY), is a Facebook phenomenon that truly exploits the power of social media while avoiding all its squalor. Its creator; a gentle man who chats to strangers and takes their pictures, producing poignant tales of modern life. His simple posts evoke thousands of comments, but not a snarky one in sight. What’s his game?

Since 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton has walked the streets of New York City, capturing astounding human stories with just a snapshot and a phrase. Now, working with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals project, he's taking HONY on a 50-day, ten nation tour beginning in Erbil, Iraq.

Talk about timing! (His arrival coincided with capture of Mosul Dam by the Islamic State.) He stopped in Kalak, Dohuk and Shaqlawa before travelling to Jordan where his camera offered people from Petra to Amman their “15 minutes of fame." In just one week, this foray into the Middle East has gained him 250,000 new followers!

HONY fans are active players in his theater; over nine million followers freely comment on his posts. They react openly, declare new understanding, and share their own stories of sadness or joy. He packs the power of a novel into a micro-format that takes mere seconds to absorb. Life-affirming tales open windows that incite deep human connections.

His original fans were New Yorkers, curious to peek inside the strangers they pass daily on their streets. Turning his lens now to the world - folks facing war, displacement and poverty on a catastrophic level, he invites remote viewers to look beyond stereotypes and see others for what we all are: just humans.

Stanton believes we each have a story worth hearing and we benefit from listening too. “We hope this trip may help to inspire a global perspective,” he writes in his blog, “while bringing awareness to the challenges that we all need to tackle together.”

Implausible, but true: two weeks of HONY images have introduced the Middle East to America (and to everywhere else HONY fans live) in a fully accessible way, offering quiet counterbalance to persistently politicized media coverage. Watch empathy go viral.

We bring you some of his recent postings. Visit his site for more natural poetry of ordinary people and see for yourself the best thing on Facebook.

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