Thursday, February 06, 2014

Humans of New York & Josh Knowles

Humans of New York from Facebook Stories on Vimeo.

It's been hard to miss your Facebook friends' videos (perhaps even your own) the last couple of days as the social medium marked 10 years by offering all of its subscribers opportunities to create and share their own (an automated process that requires neither effort nor technical knowledge).

But the video here, available via Vimeo, was a special production to recognize a Facebook star user's creative effort, Humans of New York, that has developed into one of the site's most popular. When I checked just now, the page (accessible here), had been "liked" by 2,857,745 people.

The video summarizes Brandon Stanton's story, but more information is available at the project's Web site, too, via tumblr.

To make a long story short, Stanton started taking portraits of New Yorkers when he moved to New York during 2010, then started posting them on his Facebook profile. The initial photos were posted without comment, but Stanton began to engage in conversations with his subjects and current posts are accompanied by text.

To date, 6,000 portraits have been taken --- Stanton's initial goal was 10,000. The project also has resulted in a book and a variety of honors for its creator and chief photographer. Go take a look and "like" that Facebook page. You know you want to.


Speaking of photos, my friend Arian Schuessler (both Facebook and otherwise) posted a photo album on his profile the other day honoring Josh Knowles (left), a young man from North Iowa who was killed 10 years ago, on Feb. 5, 2004, during a mortar attack at a checkpoint near Baghdad International Airport. Here's a link to the album, but I have no idea if it will work, considering the range of "privacy" settings available to Facebook users.

Knowles, a U.S. Army specialist, was a member at the time of the Mason City-based Iowa National Guard 1133rd Transportation Co., deployed to Iraq for the March-May, 2003, invasion; then headquartered between missions at Log Base Seitz, near the Baghdad airport. His death was the 1133rd's only loss. Josh was 23 and from Sheffield.

There had been considerable excitement in the Globe-Gazette newsroom during late 2003 when some of the creative folks then in management positions both at the newspaper and its corporate parent, Lee Enterprises, agreed to fund a reporting effort that involved embedding Arian, as photographer, and Bob Link, as reporter, briefly with the 1133rd in Baghdad --- a visit that coincided with Christmas, 2003.

We sent them off armed with a laptop, cameras and a satellite phone --- not quite sure how everything would work out. As it turned out, everything worked flawlessly.

Those were exciting days in the newsroom as we anticipated late evening calls from Arian or Bob in Baghdad, and the arrival of the day's photographs and reports. We were accustomed to receiving similar material from our wire services --- The Associated Press and others --- but there had never been anything quite like this before (and never will be again) in our newsroom.

I was having a lot of general fun at that time editing and designing front pages, but I'm thinking now that my favorite was published on Christmas Eve, 2003. Arian had managed to line up the entire 1133rd on the 23rd and take a group shot. After convincing a somewhat skittish editor in chief and others that it was a good idea, and waiting for that call from Baghdad, I turned the 24th front page on its side and blew it out with a full-page version of that group shot.

Arian and Bob returned safely to Mason City after Christmas and things settled down. Then, in early February, they began to hear from friends in the 1133rd, still in Baghdad, that something major had gone wrong. Before long, Josh's death had been confirmed.

The next major event that we covered as a team was his funeral.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of Humans of NY, so thank you for the info. I have enjoyed viewing the photos and reading the captions online ever since I learned about the project.