I Was Hidden on This Guy’s Hard Drive for Over 6 Years

This post was originally published on the Joey L. Blog and is being republished here with permission


It’s been estimated that as many as 880 billion photos will be taken by the close of this year. I’m not quite sure how that statistic could ever be properly calculated, but I think it’s safe to say that with the rise of the digital medium, human beings are taking a s**tload more pictures than ever before.

With all those photos being taken, chances are you and I have at one point accidentally wandered into someone else’s frame. It’s likely, however, that you’ll never really know you’ve photo-bombed someones shot. That’s why I was surprised by a Twitter message that I received out of the blue from a photographer I’ve never met.

Here’s what I received from photographer Anthony Kurtz:


Varanasi, India is an epicenter for pilgrimages for people of many walks of life. Locals from all over the subcontinent make religious journeys to the ancient city; monks of a variety of religious beliefs seek refuge in the many temples along the Ganges River; and not to mention: photographers, travelers and tourists flock to the region to seek inspiration in what I consider one of the most photogenic places on Earth.

Looking at the photo from the tiny Twitter preview, it seemed like it could be me but how could I be certain? I’m not quite sure how Anthony recognized me, as we are only are aware of each other via social media. I asked him to send me the high-resolution version of the photo, and asked if he had any others taken in the batch. He then sent the following:


Here’s a closer view:


Here’s a closer view of several of Kurtz’s exposures:

Varanasi_India_Montage copy

After zooming in to the photo I discovered that without question it was me. Looking at Anthony’s image EXIF data, I saw the image was taken on October 18th, 2007. I am 24 years old now, so I was 17 in the photo. I also noticed in one of the photographs, it appears I am taking a photo of something. So, I looked through my own images captured that day, and found the exact exposure I had taken within seconds of his:

Here I am squatting and taking a photograph of two women overlooking the Ganges River:


Here’s the actual photograph I was taking at the same time Anthony’s exposure was made:


And the big kicker: in the background of my picture there are the boats of people photographing from the river. Which one is Anthony?

When something like this happens, it’s hard not to evoke the tired cliché that the world is an incredibly small place. The world is shrinking even further with our growing level of interconnectedness on the Internet and social media, and this occurrence is an example of that.

I’m sure people have always been on paths that quietly and unknowingly intersect. Now, with people sharing their passions and experiences more than ever, we can be sure that we’ll meet yet again — or sometime in the future — whether we know it or not.

About the author: Joey L. is a Canadian commercial photographer, director and published author based in Brooklyn, New York. See more of him through his blog, portfolio and video tutorials. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article originally appeared here.

About Anthony Kurtz: Anthony Kurtz is a German-American commercial and fine-art photographer based in Berlin, Germany. You can find his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • straydog16

    This is eerily familiar. Once, when I worked as a journalist at the Washington bureau of a Japanese TV network I was having a conversation with my boss about a time when I was in grad school and I went to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on the 65th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in WWII. He told me he had been there that day covering it as a journalist. We then went to my Flickr page and looked at the pictures I took that day and found a picture I took with him in it… Very weird feeling.

  • John Khoury

    just wait til face recognition hits mainstream. you’re gonna be able to upload a pic to a website and it will tell you all the names of the people in the picture.

  • Anja

    When I was 16, I was visiting my other hometown in Germany (raised both
    there and in Massachusetts). One afternoon, a friend of mine and I were
    sitting at a fountain with our feet in the water, when a
    older-middle-aged couple stood in front of us to shoot the old Town Hall
    behind us. I don’t know why I noticed them, but I did.

    Fast forward several weeks, and I’m back in Massachusetts, swimming in a
    local pond. A friend swims up and tells me how our mutual friend was
    just at a gathering for a couple passing through town on their way home
    to Texas after a trip to Europe. They showed her their pictures of
    France, Italy, other places…and their one day in Germany. And there,
    among those pictures of the German town they went to, is a picture of me
    with my feet in a fountain.

    I would have loved to have seen that picture.

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