The easy part of this review is pointing out what'a great about this collection. It celebrates human diversity; it allows the human spirit to triumph over human adversity, and above all it is always and everywhere life enhancing. Given the current state of play with respect to drones and jihadists, the three photos selected by Stanton of young Muslim women, is a wonderful antidote to all that Islamophobic fear and loathing that is currently swirling around. The subjects seem to just want what we all want, to be allowed to get on and just be. In fact, that is probably a fair summation of the whole collection. Here I am  take me or leave me. I'm not bothered about anyone's preconceived conceptions. I'm simply too busy to worry about your preoccupations and prejudices. You don't like the way I look? Too bad. You want me to conform to your values and norms?Forget it. You want me to subscribe to your agenda? No way. Who could not warm to this brash New York can-do attitude? But it's what this collection doesn't include that is the unsettling thing.


There is something significantly missing in HONY but it takes a while to work out exactly what. So blinded are we by the sheer joy and vibrancy of it all that it takes a while to focus on the missing ingredient. And that ingredient, hotwired into all human interaction, is conflict. Where are the workers on strike? Where are the picket lines? In fact, where are the workers? You can count their representation on one hand and still have a few fingers left over. Where are the police wading into protesters with their batons at the ready? And where are the confrontations between black youth and the essentially racist NYPD. There are no placards declaring Black Lives Matter in this collection. Nor are there any overt signs of New Yorkers kicking back against corporate imposed inequality. There are no Occupy placades. In fact, corporate America has been totally airbrushed out of view. So too has the oppressive American state that protects those corporations. In its place is a somewhat fanciful version of America more akin to a 1960!s hippy San Francisco. This fanciful world didn't really exist then and I don't believe it exists in New York now.

They say the camera never lies but of course it does. It lies all the time by virtue of what it selects and what it chooses to omit. But it's a hard lie to nail. The subjectivity of the photographer, like the subjectivity of any artist or any commentator, this blog included, need only be acknowledged in order for it to be of any value. So in order to properly admire the work by Brandon Stanton, one must first recognise its limitations. His collection of photos is New York but a somewhat sanitised version of it. Certainly not sanitised in the way of tourist bureau pamphlet or even a coffee table glossy picture book, but sanitised nevertheless. Once that is recognised one can sit back and marvel at the rich diversity that is New York City and many other cities of similar cosmopolitan complexion. And in its own way, without being explicitly so, Humans of New York is subversive. Try as corporate America may, these New Yorkers have a spirit of defiance and individuality about them and that, in my subjective opinion, is a good thing. They may not be consciously part of the Occupy movement but they do seem to be saying they demand the right to occupy something or somewhere in New York; a street, a playground a much loved space. And that, in this age of the corporate matrix, has a hint of subversion about it. But without collective action, which this collection is distinctly devoid of, the plucky individual will likely be subsumed by the all-powerful corporate state. In fact, one has to wonder whether HONY has not already become a minor corporate brand itself.

End JPK Copyright, 10/12/15

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 May 2018 10:28 )