Confessing a wish to a stranger takes some courage, but isn’t usually the first step to that wish coming true. But if that stranger is one with a large social media microphone, that is exactly what can happen. At least, that’s how one boy met NASA administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden.
Photographer Brandon Stanton has gained a huge following on his website and Facebook page for "Humans of New York," a collection of images of strangers he meets while walking the streets of New York City and traveling around the world. In the tradition of street photographers, Stanton captures a small moment of each person's daily life, but even more intriguing are the intimate details accompanying the images from his interviews with each subject.
One recent photograph features a boy and his father, leaning comfortably against each other, lit by the bright lights of a nearby storefront and the twinkle of the city at night. The caption is the boy’s words, expressing his wish to be like his dad, a reporter. "If I was a reporter right now," he says, "I’d probably write a story about if NASA was going to launch a new rocket into space. I’d start by going to the Director of NASA. Then I’d ask him about his rockets. And if any of them were going to space."
His words inspired more than 300,000 "likes," thousands of shares and eventually a call from NASA. Soon after, nine-year-old Max got his chance, and here’s the result:
Max isn’t the only kid whose appearance on "Humans of New York" brought exciting happenings. Another boy, Vidal Chastnet, told the photographer how he admired his principal, Nadia Lopez, of the Mott Hall Bridge Academy in Brooklyn. He cited Lopez’s care for her students: "[S]he tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets build. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter." That post inspired a fund-raising campaign that earned the school $1.4 million, writes Vinson Cunningham for The New Yorker. Vidal and Lopez also got to meet President Barack Obama.
While looking at Stanton’s images can seem a little voyeuristic, it can also inspire empathy. And if the occasional wish comes true, so much the better.