NYC Photographer Takes Pictures of Stranger's Private Cell Phone Messages

NYC Photographer Takes Pictures of Stranger's Private Cell Phone Messages

If you’re from New York, or really any major city, you’ve been party to people-watching and the more-often-than-not eavesdrop. I'm sure everyone has caught themselves looking over a stranger's shoulder to get a glimpse at their book or magazine or even read their messages on a packed subway car.

Sometimes you’ll see a juicy text, the occasional Tinder or Bumble message, or experience secondhand panic and embarrassment after watching someone get an unexpected dick pic on a packed subway. NYC-based photographer Jeff Mermelstein is also one of those people. He's taken his curiosity and devoted a majority of his street photography solely to shooting people in their 21st-century natural element: on their cell phones.

One person Mermelstein noticed typed out "She likes ruff sex." While another was having some issues with his girlfriend and telling a friend.

What do you think of Mermelstein's style of street photography? While I'm all about exploring new art forms, in my opinion, Mermelstein's photos may be more of an invasion of privacy, rather than curiosity. Sound off in the comments below.

Lead image by Kirk Morales via Unsplash.

Laura Ersoy's picture

Laura Ersoy is a portrait and music photographer based in the New York/New Jersey area. She currently works as a Digital Designer, while also serving as Editor-in-Chief for the independent music & culture publication, EUPHORIA. Magazine.

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If I caught him doing this to me I'd punch him in the face then smash his camera.

i hope these are not his best quality of the pics because, well, they suck.

That's pretty invasive and unbelievably rude. If i saw him doing it i'd call him out on it.

Another creep throwing the rest of the photographic community under the bus for his lame project. One more reason for people to irrationally fear anyone with a camera.

With enough of these invasions of privacy, that irrational fear becomes rational and justified. Not good for legitimate photographers.

Agreed. Let's all try to be good stewards of the medium which has enough threats as it is. The could be a moral justification for this type of project. If people were engaged in coordinated terrorism, corruption, racism, sexism, etc... There then MIGHT (big emphasis on might) be a social good to this type of photography where the merits might outweigh privacy, but I've seen nothing rising to that level in his work.

Note to "artists-" you may have heard the aphorism "Ars Longa, Vita Brevis." This does not mean that acting like an arse automatically makes you an artist.

He should be punished for invading people's privacy; photography community needs to act against him and his disgraceful acts

In a few weeks we'll hear about this guy being found dead somewhere...honestly where do people get ideas like this. No common sense or decency.

A better title would be "some creep invades other people's privacy".
He's not a photographer and this is not a photography. It's just creepy and I don't know now why it's on this site

Is it just me or do those wolf finger tattoos rock? I'm going to have to get some of those!

In the US, if you're in public space your expectation of privacy is limited; from a legal standpoint. I get that and mostly agree with it. But this crosses the line in my opinion. Keep in mind that expectation of privacy is "limited," not non existent by simply being in a public space.

On another site a writer defended this clown's actions by claiming the photographer is an "anthropologist." Snapping photos of people's private texts are no more anthropology than up-skirt shots of women in public is the study of anatomy.

This is a valuable record of a specific cultural phenomenon of our time. It needs to be preserved, and the photographer has done so in a beautifully artistic way.

JK this guy is a douche.


I'd be swearing out a federal warrant for this guy's arrest on telecommnications tampering charges. In my book, this is no different than hacking someone's cell phone signal and making their conversations public. I'd like to see this guy try this with a private corporate or government communication. He'd be skewered in court.

So, voyeurism is now art?

'ruff sex', does that mean doggie style?

Most of these pics are staged... besides, there’s no artistic value other than creating sensational content to be posted on the internet....

When voyeurism is mistaken for art.

So apparently this loser has no photographic skills, no imagination and no ethics. Bottom line: Inferior "photographer " and inferior person.

Very intrusive. Also, just photographically speaking, these are terrible images.This is someone who's using crap images to make a name for themselves by doing something controversial.

I see this photographer's work as opening up a new category of invasive documentary photography. The next phase will be discreetly shooting the decisive moment when someone receives a cancer diagnosis from their doctor. People can always discover a new low.