This photographer captured shots of people texting their most intimate secrets in public — and it's a compelling insight into human nature

Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

If you’ve ever commuted on New York’s subways in rush hour traffic, you may have found your eyes drifting to the open mobile phone of the person seated beside you.

This total stranger and fellow commuter might be texting a friend about dinner plans. They might be reading a book on their phone. They might be watching a movie, or browsing the web, or scrolling through Spotify.

But other times, you’ll find that the person seated beside you- their mobile phone held out openly in their hand for all to see – is engaged in an activity that’s a tad more intimate than dinner plans. Sometimes, you’ll find that the person is sexting, or sending deeply personal text messages, or browsing Tinder, or sending dick picks.

As a New York commuter, I’ve seen all of the above. Often, I’ve found it difficult to look away.

New York-based photographer Jeff Mermelstein also has trouble looking away.

Mermelstein has dedicated a large part of his street photography to capturing these intimate, fleeting messages.

The images reveal deeply personal messages taken when the subject is unaware. Closely cropped, the photos reveal few identifying details other than a lacquered fingernail or a hand tattoo.

“She likes ruff [sic] sex,” one person types out.

“Trust me we look like our pics for sure,” writes another. “Tell your lady my wife has the same desire she has.”

Other messages are more emotionally wrought.

“This past weekend I did Ayahuasca and you came up,” a person writes. “It’s taken me all week to figure out how I deeply regret not taking ownership for my actions and in hindsight I treated you with extreme disregard.”

“Start your chemotherapy from tomorrow, please,” another message reads. “I know this is very unfair of life. I wish I could do something to take away your pain abd [sic] sickness…if I could I would do anything to save you.”

Here’s some of Mermelstein’s photos:


“We need to really investigate the Illuminati.”

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A post shared by Jeff Mermelstein (@jeffmermelstein) on


“I miss you.”

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“She likes ruff sex.”

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“Reminder to mega thread no one will read explaining Peircean semiotics.”

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“But he cheated so why not put his arse out.”

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“She…just uses me as her emotional punching bag…”

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“Trust me we look like our pics for sure. Tell your lady my wife has the same desire she has.”

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“I’m not worth giving love to or even the blow jobs.”

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“This past weekend I did Ayahuasca and you came up.”

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“OK so then we’re broken up.”

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“Listen I don’t need any bonus from you after you pass or not.”

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“As much as I don’t want an abortion, I’m not having this baby.”

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“How do I turn him straight?”

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“If I could I would do anything to save you.”

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And I also say a prayer #nyc

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“And it was because male validation was the only thing that made me feel good.”

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“I had a nice pee in a Starbucks.”

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“It’s hard to get along with someone conversationally when you are so different — like educationally, socio-economically.”

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“You want to see me squirming, moaning, trying to get away from the multiple orgasm.”

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“I won’t come over for breakfast etc. because that’s too relationship like.”

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“I want to text you during my date. Would you like that?”

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“I like to let people know that the mucus plug can regrow.”

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“I hope it covers my bum crack.”

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Do Guys Like A Full Bush On A Girl?

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