How Humans of Bombay Lost at Its Own Game

The Mumbai-based company accused another account of plagiarism. When Humans of New York founder Brandon Stanton called out the hypocrisy, all hell broke loose.

brandon stanton karishma mehta
Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York and Karishma Mehta of Humans of Bombay (The Juggernaut using Getty Images)

Poulomi Das


September 26, 2023


10 min

“Completely randomly and out of the blue, I stumbled upon the idea of Humans of Bombay,” says Karishma Mehta, then 25, in a six-year-old video that has recently resurfaced. If you have been online in the last decade, you know this is far from the truth. There would be no Humans of Bombay — the Facebook page that Mehta started in 2014 to chronicle the dreams and regrets of people in the most populous city in the most populous country — without Humans of New York (HONY). Former bond trader and photographer Brandon Stanton founded HONY in 2010 while he set out to capture 10,000 portraits of New Yorkers as part of a photography project.  

This past Saturday, nearly a decade after Mehta started her iteration, Stanton chose to remind her of its origins for the first time. Quoting a tweet that reported that Humans of Bombay had filed a lawsuit against People of India over “copyright infringement,” Stanton underlined the hypocrisy of Mehta suing “people for something I’ve forgiven you for.” Stanton said he “stayed quiet on the appropriation” of his work because he believed that Humans of Bombay shared important stories, even if “they’ve monetized far past anything I’d feel comfortable doing on HONY.”

Humans of Bombay swiftly hit back, accusing Stanton of launching a “cryptic assault” against their efforts to protect “their intellectual property.” It’s not every day that we witness someone playing victim to the very person whose “intellectual property” on which they have based their entire company.

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