Photographer Brandon Stanton took to the streets of New York City in 2010, asking anyone and everyone simple interview questions as he documented them through photography. With a goal of portraying the lives of ordinary people, the photo series—dubbed Humans of New York—was launched via Facebook and was originally based in New York City. Stanton has traveled to countries all over the world since, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran in order to expand his series on a global scale.
HONY’s most recent destination is Macomb County, Michigan—a town that voted decisively for President-elect Donald Trump. Macomb County made national news when they broke their 40-year streak of voting for Democratic candidates. In his newest segment, Stanton photographs and interviews people of this small town in order to grasp a better understanding on how Donald Trump became president of the United States. Interestingly enough, Stanton shies away from political questions as much as he can, ultimately aiming to create an unbiased portrait of each individual.
Trump’s win undoubtedly divided the country into two distinct halves. Trump supporters have been largely ostracized under the general assumption that they are racist and sexist. It is easy to immediately criticize and to even hate these voters; taking the time to understand the reasons behind their votes for Trump requires more effort than most are willing to give. Luckily, Stanton is here to help.
What makes HONY so uniquely engaging—and oftentimes emotional—is its microscopic perspective on a wide array of issues. Rather than focusing on a larger viewpoint, Stanton allows people to tell the story of their lives. By bringing his project to Macomb County, Stanton helps us to meet, understand and connect with Trump voters. His project helps many anti-Trump voters humanize Trump voters, instead of writing them off as bigoted individuals.
Stanton’s photographs mostly portray disadvantaged working class citizens who have struggled through some incredibly difficult times. Many are poor and lack an education and a solid understanding of the world outside their small Michigan town. One of the most interesting things we learn about the citizens of Macomb County, however, is their view on racism.
One man in particular perfectly captures what others are thinking. He says, “Watching the news, you’d think there was a race war out there. But then I walk outside and I just don’t see it. I hold the door for the black guy. He holds the door for me. I wouldn’t even know there was a problem if it wasn’t for the television.”
Stanton’s work as a photographer and journalist shines brilliantly through this single quote. We finally understand that many of our fellow Americans are only exposed to racism in the media. More importantly, we gain a vital understanding of the results of the recent election: Trump was not elected due to racism—he was elected due to the ignorance of it.
People all over the world appreciate and love HONY because of its down-to-earth, breathtakingly emotional and oftentimes hilarious honesty. Stanton’s photos always strive to help people understand social, emotional and political issues on a deeper, more personal level. It is this understanding that is vital to solving larger conflicts—after all, deep down we’re all human.