Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans (#321)

“Doing anything less than something amazing is squandering this whole reason that you’re here.” – Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) is the photographer behind Humans of New York. He attended the University of Georgia and worked as a bond trader in Chicago before moving to New York to pursue photography. Followed by over 25 million people on social media, Humans of New York features daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets of New York City. It has been turned into two #1 New York Times bestselling books: Humans of New York and Humans of New York: StoriesIn recent years, Brandon has expanded the blog to include stories from over thirty different countries, and was invited in 2015 to interview Barack Obama in the oval office. In 2017, Humans of New York was turned into a television series that is now available on Facebook Watch.


Brandon Stanton - The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans

Want to hear another podcast with an innovative artist? — Listen to my conversation with Soman Chainani, author of The School for Good and Evil series, in which we discuss publishing stories, personal discipline, and remaining true to an artistic vision when money’s on the table. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

Soman Chainani — The School for Good and Evil

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Brandon Stanton:

Humans of New York | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  • A notable time in Brandon’s youth when he got in trouble. [07:54]
  • What led to Brandon’s exit from college and the journey toward what would become Humans of New York? [09:25]
  • Where did Brandon’s preoccupation with purpose originate? [12:25]
  • What was it like growing up in Marietta, Georgia? [14:49]
  • Why Brandon majored in history. [17:00]
  • What catalyzed Brandon’s committment to reading 100 pages per day? [18:17]
  • Why Brandon considers biographies “the best form of history.” [21:54]
  • What biographies might Brandon recommend? [23:04]
  • What the study of history’s most persuasive villains really teaches us. [25:50]
  • How betting on Obama got Brandon into bond trading in Chicago as his first real job. [28:27]
  • A history major’s philosophical take on the stock market — what Brandon learned as a trader and why he stopped after two years. [32:20]
  • How having an obsessive streak can be an asset in some fields and a liability in others. [39:06]
  • In spite of the fear leading up to it, Brandon found the loss of his trading job curiously liberating. [44:30]
  • The real genesis of Humans of New York. [46:30]
  • How did Brandon cover his expenses in the time between losing his trading job and Humans of New York becoming profitable? [48:31]
  • Why did Brandon make New York his base of operations? [51:30]
  • When Brandon was a newcomer to photography, what did he do to improve his craft? To him, what makes a good photograph? [56:06]
  • How has Humans of New York changed over time to become what it is today? [1:01:30]
  • Who is The Green Lady, and how did Brandon’s encounter with her become a turning point for Humans of New York? [1:03:37]
  • Brandon isn’t used to being the subject. [1:08:50]
  • How does Brandon approach and open conversation with potential subjects, and how has the process changed over the past eight years? [1:09:54]
  • How did Brandon handle early days when rejection came in waves and self-confidence was low? [1:13:14]
  • Humans of New York often proves therapeutic to the people on both sides of the lens. [1:18:50]
  • Introductory questions as a springboard into real conversation, and how Brandon becomes 100 percent present in the presence of someone he’s just met. [1:25:09]
  • One recent example of how a conversation got from that springboard to a place of depth. [1:29:05]
  • How often do subjects ask that their stories not be made public? What’s the disclosure process? [1:33:16]
  • Generating compensation to afford more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without losing integrity. [1:36:25]
  • Was it easy for Brandon to find a publisher for his first book? [1:40:36]
  • Reasons publishers gave for passing on Brandon’s first book. [1:43:08]
  • The paradox of being derivative. [1:43:51]
  • What’s next for Brandon? [1:46:17]
  • My book recommendation for Brandon before he starts his next adventure. [1:50:30]
  • Final thoughts. [1:51:53]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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24 Replies to “Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans (#321)”

  1. Loved loved loved this interview!!! A highlight of my week/ thanks for putting it out there along with the other long-form interviews. Excellent!!

  2. Tim – relatively new listener and love the podcast. About to take pretty epic Europe trip with family. Any recommendation for a travel-related episode (excluding the one about travel tools, neck pillow, etc., which I’ve listened to)? Thanks.

  3. Truly inspiring! I have just started a business venture and really needed a story like this. Belief that there is still humanity restored. Thanks.

  4. Oh wow. The raw emotion and passion in Brandon Stanton’s voice is so relatable. God bless this guy, I’m sure things got darker for him than he lets on too. That’s fantastic that he kept going and proved not only his disbelievers wrong, he proved his own personal doubt wrong. Powerful stuff.

  5. I’ve been following and enjoying Brandon’s images and people’s stories for years. Brandon is a genuinely lovely person … This was a great interview, Tim, thanks.

  6. Thank you Tim for asking the right questions to the right people and for sharing it. Your podcast has an impact on at least one person in Poland.

    Brandon’s story and thoughts are incredibly inspiring in combination with your questions. This is the first episode of your podcast in my life, at the right time for me.

    I heard this episode just because Sam Brown from Australia recommended your podcast, who I also accidently heard the day before (I do not know anyone who is more inspired by you).

  7. Tim, awesome interview. I’ve listened to every single episode and this is a top three for me. So much raw emotion here. I found myself tearing up at my desk.

  8. By any chance is there a full transcript of this episode? There were so many great nuggets of wisdom! My favorites were his quote about if you don’t know what you want to do read an autobiography of someone you admire or who does what you want to do and “find nourishment in the moment.”

    Thank you! This was EXCELLENT and the first podcast I’ve listened to in it’s entirety.

  9. This podcast was amazing, I was able to relate Brandon on a very deep level. I to always think that we are here for a higher purpose and I am still trying to figure out what I am supposed to do with my life that makes the world a better place. I am doing this to a point to where it is almost unhealthy, after hearing his advice to relax and focus on the next 24 hours and learn as much as you can along the way, I have been able to rest a little easier and just keep working away at what I am doing (Personal podcast). Working in hospital for a number of years I am well aware that there is NO guarantee for tomorrow, so I am always pushing, pushing and pushing to find my purpose to help people live there live to the best of their abilities.

    Because you don’t know what the next sunrise will bring. Thank you for the work you do, Tim Ferriss.

  10. I really appreciate this episode, Tim. I use your interviews to remind myself to keep working, It can be so easy to amuse myself to death to borrow from Neil Postman.

    I’m so incredibly entertained by these podcasts. I could listen to a 4-hour podcast. Your blog could then be called the 4-hour podcast. See what I did there?

    Have a good week man. Hope you’re having a better week. It seemed like you had a tough one recently.

    Peace, brother

  11. Tim- Thank you for recording this interview with Brandon and for sharing it with the world! This was a particularly inspiring episode for me. So much so that as I was finishing the episode, I drove straight to my local bookstore and purchased a copy of Humans of New York: Stories. I was especially moved by the story Brandon shared around feeling alone in the early days as he devoted himself to this mission – a mission that inherently involved others. I completely understood and connected with his story and that sentiment. Sending love and light to you both for your continued efforts of making the world a better place! – Gabe

  12. An excellent episode! I am also trying to read at least one book every month. It is a recreation and education at the same time, so I try not to fall behind. I am definitely adding Humans of New York to my list. Currently, I am reading Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards and am looking forward to the release of The Voiceless Voice by Alexandra Casavant. They are different in style and genre but have similar life messages to ponder with.

  13. Dear Tim,

    I like your blog. I want to translate your different topic in my French blog. Please, could you give me permissions.


  14. great interview and the blog is awesome! just stumbled upon it.

    nevertheless brandon approached trading totally wrong and that was the reason he didnt succeed. he puts the money infront of the process which is the biggest trading mistake you can make.