Humans Of New York (HONY) Now In Iran
NEW DELHI: Brandon Stanton, the mind behind the phenomenon that is Humans Of New York (HONY), is currently in Iran. The portraits are stunning, but that is now expected from Stanton’s amazing project. More importantly, the portraits from Iran show a society in transition: young people who want to be artists, thinkers and creators, and imagine themselves vis a vis an older, more conservative generation. The portraits are also a reminder of the immensely central role of family in Iranian society, with heartening stories of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles making clear that they would do anything for their loved one.
Of his stint in Iran, Stanton wrote: “My last stop this summer is Iran. Iran holds a special place in my heart because it was the first international trip that I ever made with HONY. But that was three years ago, and I’ve always looked back at the collection with a tinge of regret, because HONY was still quite new and the work was pretty uncooked. I was only just beginning to include quotes alongside the photographs. I always wished that I could return and do a better job telling the stories of ordinary Iranians, and I’m excited to have that opportunity.”
Here are some of the photos and stories:
"My doctor told me to stop climbing mountains so now I just climb the small ones."
“She’s from a very conservative family and she’s the only daughter. So I’m trying to win her parents’ trust. We’re up to four hours a week together. As long as we tell her parents exactly where we’re going. And send photos once we get there. And get home before 9 pm. Always before 9 pm.”
“I’m trying to be an artist, but my parents just don’t understand. I showed a painting to my mom, and I was like: ‘Do you like it?’
And she was like: ‘I guess, but why is there a cigarette? Are you smoking now?’
And I was like: ‘No, Mom. The cigarette represents pain.’
And she was like: ‘Did we not love you enough?’”
"I want to be a cancer doctor. Because my mom has cancer."
“Things are getting freer. Even a few years ago, I couldn’t wear what I’m wearing now without inviting a rebuke. The scarves are getting brighter and looser. The sleeves are getting shorter. The laughter is getting louder. This is a very young country. More than half the population is under 30. Have you ever seen an Iranian child? They are the most mischievous children on the planet. If you want an Iranian child to do something-- tell them not to do it. Tell them not to kiss. Tell them not to hold hands. Tell them to dress in black. Tell them not to use Facebook. This country is full of mischievous, curious Iranian children. And the people who make the rules are getting older. And just like the Iranian parent, they are getting exhausted.”
“My mother died when I was two years old, so it’s just me and my father. He’s been really angry with me lately. He’s always wanted me to be an engineer like him, but I switched my major to photography. He didn’t’ show any emotion when I told him. He always has a poker face. But I know that he’s angry from the little things. He never asks me to go shopping with him anymore. We used to go to the market together. He’d pick up a watermelon, inspect it, then would hand it to me for my opinion. It doesn’t sound like much but I really valued that time together. But once I changed my major, he stopped asking me to come along. But I think things are getting better. Recently I scored in the top 5th percentile on the University Entrance Exam for photography. When I told my father, he didn’t show any emotion. But the next day he asked me if I wanted to go shopping. And that made me so happy. Because it’s just the two of us. And I really, really, really, really love him.”
“I like to sit alone and think about the world. I wanted to be a philosophy major, but there is no philosophy class at our universities. The only class offered is ‘Religion and Philosophy.’ We aren’t exactly encouraged to decide things for ourselves. Any philosophy we have must be built on the existence of God. So I switched my major to physics. It still allows me to think about the world. And if someone wants me to say that a thing is true, they need to prove it with a formula."
“My wife has a brain tumor and I haven’t sold a suit in two weeks. I was with my grandson last week and he asked me to buy him a chocolate. But I had nothing in my pockets. I had to tell him: ‘Wait until your father comes home.’ I wanted to melt into the soil.”
“Since he was very young, I’ve tried to show him that we can’t always afford the things that we want. When my wallet is full, I show him. When my wallet is empty, I show him. Things have been especially hard lately because my husband has missed a few paychecks. We couldn’t get new supplies for school this year. But he told me: ‘Don’t worry Mom, we’ll get them when the wallet is full.’ And then the other day he saw that I was upset because we couldn’t get all the groceries we needed. So he went into his room and brought me his own savings.”
"My dad taught me how to swim!"
"How do you swim?"
"First put on your life jacket and then hold on to the raft."
“She had heart surgery when she was four years old. It was a very hard day. We all stood around her bed and told her that there was nothing to worry about. But all of us were terrified.”
It took us ten years, countless doctor appointments, and three miscarriages to have her. So we never feel bothered by her cries.”