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September 26, 2016   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Blogger tells crowd to pursue dreams

Blogger tells crowd to pursue dreams

Aaron Hale

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By Aaron Hale | September 26, 2016
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In the world of Facebook news feeds and Twitter timelines, holding people's attention is the "currency" of an artist's work, said UGA alumnus Brandon Stanton, a best-selling author, photographer and founder of the popular blog Humans of New York.

Stanton, who received a bachelor's degree in history in 2008, spoke to a sold-out audience at the Tate Student Center during a Sept. 15 talk hosted by University Union. Stanton told those in attendance that his success came from pursuing his interests, working hard and creating something distinctive in a field where it's hard to get noticed.

Stanton's Humans of New York is a photography project featuring simple portraits and stories in the subject's own words. While Stanton has interviewed President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he picks most of his subjects from everyday strangers on the streets of New York City.

To open his talk, Stanton fondly recalled his time as a UGA undergraduate—including his daily greetings at the old Bolton Dining Commons from cashier Donika Harallambi, whom he pointed out in the audience.

He shared that his first experience interviewing people was as a student, when he began an unfinished documentary project that featured characters across UGA's campus.

After graduating as a history major from UGA in 2008, Stanton got a job trading bonds in Chicago. He described the job as fascinating but also all-consuming. He'd spend his weekends stressing about how to do his job better. And then, two years into his career, he was fired.

Stanton resolved to structure his life so that he made just enough money to control how he spent his time.

"I never knew the value of time as a resource until I lost two years of it," he said.

Stanton had been tinkering with photography—snapping shots around Chicago. He decided to move to New York and begin an art project that featured portraits of strangers. The idea evolved. It was when Stanton featured intimate conversations with his portrait subjects that Humans of New York really took off.

Stanton's lesson here was: "don't wait for perfect," explaining that perfect ideas evolve over time. People should work on what they love, and the details will work out eventually.

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