A man, a photo and the long search to find the person in it

A man, a photo and the long search to find the person in it  

See that guy? The one in the photograph. Worn work boots, yellow construction hat, hooded sweatshirt, purple winter jacket, broad shoulders, serious face, slumped forward, hands clasped, eyes locked on the stranger’s camera pointed at him.

That guy, who is he?

The photo provides a vague clue. Its caption reads: “I was Defensive Player of the Year.”

That could mean anything. High school. College. Professional. From 20 years ago. Ten. Five. Played linebacker. Defensive end. Cornerback.

That’s the genius in Humans of New York, a blog that features portraits of New Yorkers, so many hipsters and bankers, couples and their children and their grandparents, natives and immigrants, homeless and rich, tattooed and bearded and costumed. The portraits come with short descriptions, sometimes one sentence, sometimes four, just enough information to light cauldrons of speculation, to begin an exercise in collective fiction writing done by strangers on the Internet. The captions provide the beginning of the story. What you see in the picture is the rest of it.

This is a quiet story. It’s not flashy or dramatic; it’s simply a tale of trying to find someone, and what the search comes to mean for the man in the picture and the people searching for him. The story also asks the important question of why? Why do we care? Why do we need to know?

What’s your story?

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