Fred Bonilla : Sharing Your Photo Skills

Acts Of Photographic Charity 2013 by Fred Bonilla

The number one hardcover non-fiction book on the New York Times’ best sellers list the last week of October was not written by well known authors like Doris Kearns Goodwin or Bill O’Reilly. Instead, it was photographer Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New YorkA photo book? Hell, yeah!
A chronicle of portraits taken of average New Yorkers with their unique tales, life lessons and observations. Mr Stanton’s story is unique in itself. From a NY Times article written about him by Julie Bosman, “he is a 29-year-old Georgia native with no training as a journalist.”

He has owned two cameras in his life and admits he has never learned the technically correct way to use them. When he moved to New York in 2010, he was friendless, nearly broke and recently relieved of his job as a bond trader in Chicago.

But after he was laid off in 2010, Mr. Stanton decided to shift to a completely new career. He moved to New York, where he didn’t know a single person. Much of his time was spent on an ambitious project he dreamed up, photographing 10,000 people and mapping their whereabouts as a sort of virtual map of New York.After several months, he began moving in a different direction, interviewing his subjects and asking them about their lives, their struggles, their disappointments and their hopes.Most people brushed him off. “It was very emotionally draining at first,” Mr. Stanton said. “I’d be really disappointed when people would say no.” But his project gradually attracted an audience, mostly people in their 20’s who left enthusiastic comments on his website. When his Facebook page had collected more than 200,000 followers, Mr. Stanton decided it was time to collect the pictures into a book”. A best selling book, I may add…

Humans Of New York

Of all the stories Brandon has heard, there is one one story that truly moved him & turned him misty eyed as the encounter ended. One rainy afternoon in Columbus Circle, he spotted an older woman. “I see this 80-year-old woman coming towards me with this very bright umbrella,” he says. Brandon took her photograph and asked her for her best piece of advice. “She said, ‘I’ll tell you what my husband told me when he was dying. I said, “Mo, how am I going to live without you?” And he said, take the love that you have for me and spread it around.'”

First off, allow us to give Brandon Stanton major props for his project and all that has resulted from it. It again attests to the power of photography and it’s ability to teach, illuminate and in this particular case. move our hearts. And it’s in that spirit that I offer you my 5th annual installment & a slightly different “Acts Of Photographic Charity” for 2013.. There are so many photo charity resources that would love your help this holiday season & in the coming year. Help-Portrait will be again having it’s worldwide event to take & deliver portraits to the less fortunate on December 7th.

And there are any number of great organizations that use photography to help those in need, like 100 Cameras, who sells photos from children in projects worldwide to fund their efforts to improve the young photographer’s lives. Or you can get in touch with any number of organizations that do great work throughout the year for children with serious illness or life altering diseases like Inspiration Through Art. You can check my other holiday articles for other suggestions. My suggestion to my fellow PI readers however is for you to look within your own communities for situations that perhaps only you and your fellow photographers can fill. It can be in a senior or youth center, church or synagogue or even among your friends, neighbors and peers. Some of the most satisfying shoots I’ve ever done have been to families and individuals whose sheer joy and enjoyment of the pictures taken and shared far outweigh any monetary compensation I could receive.

Brandon Stanton’s life was transformed when camera in hand, he took to the streets of streets of New York not to chronicle the fashions or the cutting edge trends but the HUMANS and with all that comes with it. You can do so as well in your own neck of the woods in a way that only you may know how. My deepest wishes that this holiday season be a fulfilling and meaningful one and my deepest thanks to Damon for allowing me to share this. God bless and oh, yeah…do what Mo said.


“We ordered her those pants, and as soon as they arrived, she cut off the bottoms and made a pair of gloves.”

(Photo © Brandon Stanton)


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