Brandon Stanton Gives Motivational Speech To Students at ASU

The photo above is of the Barrett Lawn where Brandon Stanton the creator of Humans of New York gave his speech to Arizona State University Students. Photo taken by Alessandra Luckey.

Tempe, Arizona

Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York, gave a moving speech to Arizona State University (ASU)  students, about his journey from losing a job to becoming a famous photographer, Wednesday at the Tempe campus.

Hundreds of students from ASU campuses ventured out to the Tempe Barrett Lawn to hear Stanton talk. Students brought blankets to sit on and chatted with people around them while they waited for the program to start.

When Stanton walked on stage he jokingly said that it was the most casual speech he has ever given and that he felt he was at a county fair. His tone for the rest of the speech followed a similar lighthearted tone.

Stanton started off by explaining that he was not always a successful person, especially when it came to schooling. At one point he was flunking college. He left school and went to live with his grandparents to get his life together.

He returned to college and earned straight A’s. Once he finished school, he  went on to sell bonds, but then he lost his job. After losing his job, he wanted to find an outlet where he could create a space in his mind, Stanton said.

Stanton would go out everyday to take photos of people and landscapes. His original goal was to create a census of people in New York by taking their photos, Stanton said.

The pivotal moment in his career was about a month after he stated taking photos. He was on the subway and took a photo of two kids, that had never met before, but were making the exact same face as they were looking up.

“I remember feeling such a sense of accomplishment,” Stanton said in regards to the moment of capturing the photo of the kids.

Stanton went on to say that the fuel Humans Of New York is based on is the satisfaction that he got when he looked down at his screen and saw the photo of the boys.

Throughout his speech, he dropped many tid bits of advice. Some of these included that courage is a skill and something that can be developed. Others were that there is a great power in kindness, to be careful of prestige, and to not make decisions based off of how it is going to look to other people.

When asked what makes him continue the Humans of New York blog, he stated that it is not motivation but discipline.

“HONY is not built on motivation. It’s built on discipline. Motivation will not last. It’s an emotion,” Stanton said.

He then went on to say that he sets goals every day: playing the piano for an hour, reading 100 pages of a book, or going out and taking photos of people. He will complete all of these no matter how he feels or else it is not a normal day for him.

Stanton has traveled the world photographing people and telling just a small part of their immense stories.


After the speech, I interviewed three ASU students who were waiting in line to meet Stanton. All of them pointed to different parts of his talk that really stood out to them.

“My favorite part of the speech was the fact that he included the entire evolution of Humans of New York,” Victoria Grijalva said. She went on to comment on the fact that

“My favorite part of the presentation was that he said he was a very average guy the whole time, like really stressing that, and how he was really just trying to go for what he loves every single day,” Tamara Sleem said.

“My favorite part of Brandon’s speech was when he talked about how discipline is necessary to do something rather than motivation. So I thought that was very interesting,” Marija Shahid said.

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