There’s this blog
Called Humans of New York
Created by a photographer
Who walks through New York City
Stopping people on the street,
Taking their portraits,
Learning snippets of their stories
And captioning the pictures with the quotes.
Once it gained traction,
Several hundred of the best photos
Were bound side by side in a coffee table book.
I own this book.
I asked for it for Christmas one year
After I got tired of squinting at the HONY art
Through the lens of Google Images
In the back of my ninth grade journalism class.
“So what inspires you?”
“Colors, flowers and picnics.”
Like the pictured smiling woman
With roses in her cotton-candy hair
I too am inspired by colors
And beautiful things.
Maybe moreso, however
I’m inspired by things that stand out;
Quietly different things hiding in plain sight,
Things just weird enough
To be obviously real.
The guy waiting for the train in an astronaut suit
Or the widow clad in entirely neon rainbow colors
Who’d “love to meet someone”
But isn’t willing to change anything about herself to do it.
Within these pages,
Normal and nonsensical
Sit side by side.
The heartwarmingly serious and the stupidly funny
Do glorious battle.
It’s these relationships
That fascinate me too,
The way a little boy on the subway
Holding up his teddy bear so it can see out the window
Can make sense with
The pink gorilla playing upright bass on the street for cash,
The way they all exist together in the same city,
The way that city is only a fragment
Of the rest of the world.
On another page,
A wistful old woman
Tugs her fur coat close and says,
“I just got back from the eye doctor.
I hope he can save them.”
Each picture is a story.
They pile up with every page
And if I think too hard
About the scope of it all
I’m waist-deep in a blizzard.
It’s a manageable glimpse
Into the crazy that is the world
One I can experience in moderation
From the comfort of my room
On a Wednesday night.
I’m inspired by the wave
Of nameless emotion
That uproots me
When I experience too much life all at once.
Doesn’t have to be my life.
Oftentimes it’s not.
I’m inspired by the bond trader
Who lost his job and decided-
Despite no experience-
To pursue photography.
The man who somehow managed
To create this inspiration.
I’m inspired by hundreds of people
I have never met
And will never meet
Who did nothing for me except
Live their normal lives
In the right place at the right time.
Sometimes I wonder if they realized
The impact just being there,
Just being seen
Would have on someone
So completely unconnected
With their lives,
And that inspires me too.