One Story at a Time: Humans of Saints

Humans of Saints provides a glimpse into the daily lives at St. George's School. The group's diction imitates Brandon Stanton's, founder/photographer of Humans of New York.

"Just do what you love to do." - Joshua Sagredo ('15)

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed about an year ago, I came across an interesting page that I eventually became riveted in. Started by Brandon Stanton, a photographer focusing on portraits, Humans of New York is a catalogue that tells stories of everyday people. HONY’s original goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. Yet as Stanton met more and more interesting people, the portraits and quotes became subjects of a vibrant blog rather than a general map. Today, HONY provides the world with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.

Initiated back in the summer of 2010, Stanton thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants. Shortly after being fired in from his financial job, Stanton move to New York and started taking portraits of strangers on the streets. Four years later, HONY has become a social media phenomenon, with over six million followers, as well as a #1 New York Times Bestseller. You can see Brandon Stanton’s complete Humans of New York catalogue here.

Oscar Hong, a photographer and one of the founders of Humans of Saints, shared his thoughts on Stanton’s work.

“I think HONY is so successful because it reveals our most common link as people and uncovers the beauty and purpose in everyday life. We often unintentionally divide people into stereotypes and make judgments about strangers; however, HONY is a perfect reminder that in the final analysis, we all have our own life stories, we all have a lesson to share, and we all have a unique place in this world,” Oscar noted, “this realization, along with the witty photographs and comments time-to-time, captures the attention of a broad demographic and becomes a source of inspiration.”

Launched by Oscar Hong (’15) and Harris Mak (’15) on February 15, 2014, Humans of Saints is based on collecting photographs of St. George’s School, and including quotes and short stories alongside these photographs, which serve as the primary subjects of the page. Combined together, the pictures and quotes either tell a story of the person or provide some insight from the person.  Slightly ambiguous on purpose, the short excerpts are usually an open ended question, allowing the audience some liberty to interpret it the way they deem fit.

Oscar gave a few comments on the intentions behind the project.

“In the beginning when we were first inspired to take on this project as members of the Grade 11 Arts and Culture committee, Harris and I simply thought of it as a way to bolster school spirit and let students see interesting photos of their friends. However, from the feedback we have gotten and our own personal feelings, we have come to realize that this small idea can actually have powerful and lasting impacts,” mentioned Oscar.

“We see it now as a platform to express and showcase the individual personalities in our school and their stories at Saints. Perhaps current students now feel more connected to others who they do not usually spend time with, or at least learned one new thing about them. Alumni have said that the stories we post bring back the memories of their good times at Saints. We are very moved that our project has generated such a positive vibe and it means a lot to us that it has reached and is appreciated by so many members of our community.”

Oscar concludes, “HoS is our way of giving back to the wonderful community that has fostered our love of learning, defining values, and meaningful relationships. When we graduate, we hope to pass down this project to keep it going, so that we can one day relive our own high school memories and stay up to date with Saints. But for now we’re just getting started, there’s a lot more to come!”

Kudos to Oscar Hong, Harris Mak, and Spencer Quong for running this initiative. If you have any interesting submissions, feel free to send them to [email protected]. You can follow Humans of Saints on Facebook here.