What would it take for Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind Humans of New York, to admit that some of his portrait subjects are jerks? The viral photoblog, which has Facebook likes numbering at 15 million (almost twice the population of New York City), uses the “we’re all special in our own special way” filter on pretty much all of its images, even the ones of, well, jerks.
There’s already a whole slew of Humans of New York parodies, like Lizard People of New York and Orcs of New York, as well as a whole slew of thinkpieces about the problems with HoNY’s particular brand of clickbaity sentimentality. But the scales are still not balanced in the parodies’ favor (combined, they have nowhere near 15 million Facebook likes), so there’s room for more.
The latest HoNY parody, Jerks of New York, comes from Sunset Park-based photographer Sam Draisin, who recruits his friends to pose for blandly earnest portraits and writes captions skewering a particular breed of sheltered New Yorker, the type that inspires concerned articles about whether all millennials are entitled narcissists. “There are eight and a half million stories in this city, and a lot of them belong to total douchebags,” goes the blog’s slogan.
“The very first Jerk on the blog is myself–I wanted to make clear this is a tongue-in-cheek self-parody,” says Draisin, who studied photography at Oberlin College and is originally from that other land of jerks, San Francisco. There are some familiar characters here: The early Brooklyn gentrifier who’s angry that his neighborhood is now too gentrified for him to afford; the grinning Ayn Rand fan; the grad student in love with Ivory Tower jargon. We talked to Sam Draisin about his noble mission to document the jerks of this city, because we’re all jerks in our own special way.
What’s wrong with Humans of New York?
There’s nothing special about the photography. It’s all Avedon rehashes. The whole schtick of it–the photography is meh, and the captions are so humanistically optimistic, and that is so not my personality and so not the personality of virtually everyone I know in New York City.
What are some examples of offending HoNY posts?
So it’s a bit difficult talking shit about specific HoNY posts—even the ones that make me roll my eyes the most are still often the very personal stories of real people, and to mock them would just be dickish. But that said, things that specifically piss me off about his posts are ones that feel exotifying and “other”-ing particularly of lower-income people of color and when he goes on his little international excursions (these reek of a “we’re all one race: the human race”/”All Lives Matter” type of kumbayah bullshit). There are a handful that I will admit made me envious because they seemed like they’d be perfect for Jerks—sometimes the truth is douchier than fiction. Examples of the latter: “It’s a breathing and stretching exercise called Qigong;” “I used to transport coke between Miami and Cuba…. now I just do hair and makeup for the girls at the strip club;” “I’m trying to look at my phone less;” and some self-referential horn-tooting.
Who are your favorite actual jerks of New York? (Real New Yorkers you think are real jerks and would like to include on the blog.)
This is tough—I’m going to have to split “favorite” NY jerks and people I’d love to include on Jerks of New York. Favorites include Jerry, George, Elaine, & Kramer; Anthony Bourdain; Tracy Jordan; Louis CK; uhhh Travis Bickle? Helga Pataki? As for people I’d love to shoot for JoNY, let’s go with my old landlord, truly the biggest asshat in the City.
See more of Jerks of New York here.