February: the month when Buenos Aires starts to feel a little less empty. Businesses, theaters, and even the Supreme Court of Justice have just started to open their sleepy eyes — and doors — after the extended siesta that is January. And just in time, because we have a new kid in town, and he is here to mingle with some porteños. Humans of New York, the hugely successful online photography blog dipping into the lives of New York residents, has landed in BA.
On January 26th, the blog’s founder, Brandon Stanton, announced his February tour via Facebook, putting out an open call for interpreters and people to help him ‘gather stories’. He will make his way through Buenos Aires, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Lima, and Bogotá over the course of the month and the Buenos Aires series, his first stop, is already well under way.
This isn’t the first time the blog has widened its horizons beyond The Big Apple, and in 2014 Stanton embarked on a world tour, in partnership with the United Nations, but never before has it made it to South America.
It looks like he has been forgiven for missing us out of his world tour however. The first pictures from Buenos Aires, although only uploaded yesterday, have already gone down a treat. The blog’s second since posting from Argentina raked in 217,000 Instagram likes, (more than the five preceding photos) making it the third most popular post of 2017 so far.
Stanton’s premise is simple; “I take pictures of people on the street and ask them questions,” his Twitter profile reads. But with just a quick brief snapshot, he manages to capture the spirit of place, the tenderness of emotion, and arguably the essence of humanity. The first few of posts from Argentina seem to be no exception. The first features a man telling the bittersweet story of a lost friend and a lost opportunity, while the second shows a father holding his young daughter, with the caption, “I can do all the same things as my wife except for the milk part,” – a little relief from your daily dose of machismo. In the most recent, depicting a young couple on a park bench, the terrifying ecstasy of a first love is almost palpable: “These last five days have been magic,” gushes the boyfriend, “I feel so happy and nervous at the same time.”
“Mario and I had been friends since the age of six. We were from the same small town in the countryside. We always kept in touch. We’d occasionally get coffee together. I knew he was gay but we never talked about it. It just didn’t come up. He never volunteered the information and I never asked. I felt that I was being respectful. At one point, I began to notice that his face was changing. He started to get very thin. But I never asked about it. Maybe I thought that he’d feel I was invading his privacy. Mario could get offended very easily. He was like a volcano. Maybe, subconsciously, I just didn’t want to get involved. When I finally knew for sure, it was too late. I visited him at the hospital the day before he died. I could only look at him through a glass window. He was covered in blankets. I felt like such an idiot. I could have asked him at any time. I could have said: ‘What are you hiding from me? Are you sick? Are you afraid I will reject you?’ Then we could have hugged each other and cried together. We could have maybe even laughed at the situation. But we never got to do that. Because I never had the balls to ask.” (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
The stories from Buenos Aires continue in the same vein as the rest Stanton’s blog – offering both a quaint, self-contained story and also a platform for opening up discussion. (He has previously run series focusing on refugees, children living with cancer, and American war veteran.) The photos from the Argentine edition have already sparked conversations about gender roles within parenting, and about regret and the true meaning of friendship.
Even before Stanton’s arrival, the new Latin American series seems to have received a unanimously positive reaction; the Facebook page is aflood with those offering their translation services, and requesting that Stanton visit their hometowns next. The project was already popular in Argentina; in May 2012, freelance photographer Jimena Mizrahi started up Humans of Buenos Aires, one of many blogs worldwide inspired by Stanton’s original concept, which now has over 130,000 Facebook followers. In October 2013, Mizrahi’s blog was transformed into an exhibition, ‘Microhistorias del Microcentro’, with the help of some government sponsorship. However, this new series marks the first time Stanton’s official blog has ever blessed our capital with its presence.