The Humans of New York Facebook show is social media at its best

In video form, Brandon Stanton's series remains as beautifully ephemeral as the original

Humans of New York: The Series.
(Image credit: Screenshots/Facebook/Humans of New York: The Series)

"Let's be happy for a couple of minutes," a subway performer says in Humans of New York, a 13-part series being released weekly on Facebook. The show was created by Brandon Stanton, the man behind the hugely popular photography series — which gained much of its millions-strong following on Facebook — of the same title. As a photography series, Humans of New York was captivating for its sheer simplicity: a single photograph of a New Yorker, generally on the street, in the park, on a train, or in any of the public spaces that allows for the unmediated encounters the series collected, and which are so intrinsic to the identity of the city itself. The only accompaniment was a caption in which the subject shared anything from their life story to a stray remark.

As a video series, Humans of New York doesn't expand on this premise so much as render it more dynamic. Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Michael Crommett, the show knows how to draw the eye to the details in subjects' faces, from make-up to silver hair to faint wrinkles, in a way that makes it feel as if the viewer is invited to accompany the series' crew in their own discovery of the subject. These are brief segments, culled from a vast archive of 1,200 interviews captured over 400 days, but they are intentionally fragmentary: Often, an interviewee appears answering a question we didn't hear and can only guess at, or realizes what they really think only in mid-response.

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Sarah Marshall's writings on gender, crime, and scandal have appeared in The Believer, The New Republic, Fusion, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015, among other publications. She tweets @remember_Sarah.