I think that even though some of the things on 'Humans of New York' are kind of very personal and very revealing, I think the discomfort with sharing that tends to be overwritten by the appreciation of being able to distill the experience of your life into a story and share it with other people.
The interviews have gotten much longer with 'Humans of New York.' When I was first starting, I was just photographing people. And then I went to just kind of including a quote or two. Now when I'm approaching somebody on the street, I'm spending about 30 to 45 minutes with them often.
I was making projections about 'Humans of New York,' back when I had zero followers, that made all my friends and family roll their eyes. I'd throw out these huge numbers: 'One day, a million people are gonna be looking at this. Trust me.' And even those wild, wild numbers I was throwing out have just been smashed. So, it's a good feeling.
When you are interviewing refugees, each person you talk to has a different story that could come from a horror movie. So many people talk about seeing their families get murdered before their eyes. Then I go to Central Park, and people are talking about their third divorce and paying tuition.
In July of 2010, I lost my finance job in Chicago. Instead of updating my resume and looking for a similar job, I decided to forget about money and have a go at something I truly enjoyed. I'd purchased a semi-professional camera earlier that year and spent my free time taking photos in downtown Chicago.
I arrived in a new city, I'd get lost in the streets and photograph everything that looked interesting, taking nearly a thousand photographs every day. After each day of shooting, I'd select 30 or 40 of my favorite photographs and post them on Facebook. I named the albums after my first impression of each city.
I know I have a caption that I'm going to use when somebody tells me something I've never heard before. It's very rarely a thought, a philosophy, when somebody says, 'Oh, I don't like cheese' or 'Oh, I think the government should be overthrown,' because so many people share these thoughts. But what people don't share is stories.