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"The Eid prayer on the football field of Jamaica High School is one of the most beautiful sights in the city," says photographer Brandon Stanton, singling this image out as his favorite of 2013 (thus far). When Stanton launched his site Humans of New York, little did he know it would become a worldwide phenomenon, or a New York Times best-selling book. Pointing a lens on the streets of NYC, he's turned everyday people – dads and kids breakdancing in the park, struggling artists on the subway, even George Takei in Times Square – into captivating web celebrities in their own right. Here, Stanton shares his all-time favorite HONY photos with PEOPLE.
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"Don't think I've ever seen a kid so dressed up for a game of catch," Stanton says.
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"I've ran into this man on several occasions," Stanton tells PEOPLE. "Despite 'looking like a bum,' he claims to have 'more degrees than a thermometer'."
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What did this painter decked out in fur say of Stanton taking her portrait? Stanton recalls: "'I can't talk,' she said. 'These shadows are changing every minute.'"
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"This photo was a failed attempt to get both mother and son to look at the camera. But the result was a mix of protectiveness and apprehensiveness," Stanton notes.
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"I was walking in Chelsea when I noticed this drag queen rolling around in the middle of the street, throwing money into the air," Stanton says. "Apparently she had been performing in a nearby bar, and had gotten carried away with her performance."
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The Street Artist
"In warm weather, Joe Mangrum does sand paintings almost every day in Washington Square Park," Stanton says. "They are very photogenic, and I love to use them as backdrops for photos."
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The New Year's Surprise
"I ran into her on New Year's Eve, 2010," Stanton recalls. "I've never really seen anyone like her since."
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"Ms. Colombia is one of my favorite people to photograph. He was a lawyer in Colombia until he found out he had HIV," Stanton says. "Ever since, he's been Ms. Colombia."
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"These kids were trying to pose for a photo. The calamity that followed is one of those unrehearsed moments that you can never plan for." (See more of Stanton's photos at Humans of New York)