• 12.17.13

What Happens When You Ask Strangers To See The Last Photo On Their Phone

This series of videos catches people on the street and asks them to show their most recent snapshot. The results aren’t as embarrassing as you might think–they’re remarkably poignant.

What Happens When You Ask Strangers To See The Last Photo On Their Phone

What’s the last photo on your phone? The answer might be something a little mundane–what you had for lunch yesterday, maybe, or your friends at a party on the weekend. But when artist Ivan Cash walked around San Francisco this fall asking random strangers to share their most recent photo, the results were weirdly fascinating glimpses into each person’s life. Now, Cash has repeated the experiment in L.A. and New York.


Each city is at least somewhat recognizable through the stories people tell, whether it’s about former Peace Corps volunteers in San Francisco or a costumed Darth Vader on Hollywood Boulevard.

Here’s L.A.:

Here’s New York City:

Cash, who has done the same project with the last text on people’s phones, says he thinks the series works in part because his question guarantees a random photo. “I’m interested in how social media is very highly curated,” he says. “We’re very intentional about what we choose to share, and I think that makes sense–we all have an image we want to maintain–but to me there’s something super interesting about the ordinary and the mundane and the unfiltered.”

He spent three days in each city, wandering the streets talking with people he never would have ordinarily met. “Some people reject you, but other people welcome you into their lives, and through a photo a whole story emerges,” Cash says. “I’m always amazed at how juicy the stories are.”

Cash hopes to keep traveling to other cities–perhaps somewhere in the deep South and the Midwest, next–and keep the series going. “Do different cities have different stories?” he asks. “My hypothesis is that they do.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.