Art Project Encourages New Yorkers To Use Payphones For Love


‘Call Someone’ uses stencils and spray paint to invite pedestrians to take a pause from their daily lives and connect with someone they care about.

Vashti Hallissey
  • 26 june 2014

You’ve probably heard of Stevie Wonder’s song ‘I just called to say I love you’ but when was the last time you phoned someone just to let them know you care? These days we have such busy schedules and hectic lives that it can be easier to send a WhatsApp message or text a love heart emoji instead of calling our loved ones.

A recent installation in New York encouraged people to pause their everyday activities and do just that, using a device many had forgotten about – the payphone. There are 10,000 working payphones in New York City alone but now that most of us have mobiles, these once integral devices have become largely redundant. Matt Adams, a filmmaker and creative consultant, wanted the city residents to reconsider payphones and reconnect with the people they care about.

“When you’re talking on a cell phone and walking down the street, there are so many distractions, especially in New York City. When you are on a pay phone, the distractions are minimized because you have to stay in one place so it was really cool to watch New Yorkers completely in the present and fully engaged with whoever was on the other end of the phone,” Matt told PSFK.

With the help of his friend Katy, Matt decorated a payphone with a spray paint and stencil sign saying ‘Call Someone’. It’s part of a video and photo series that ‘aims to bring New Yorkers together by engagint them in positive activites in the most unexpected places’. They also taped quarters along the top so that the phone could be used for free and placed a hidden microphone above the receiver and hidden cameras nearby.

People started to use the payphone immediately. One woman called her boyfriend and let him know that pay phones now cost a dollar and that “this phone call is probably the most costly phone call he’s ever going to get.” A little girl used a payphone for the first time and a group left a message on a friend’s voicemail, all taking turns to tell her that they love her.

“There’s something so human about hearing another person’s voice and when using a pay phone, you don’t have the same options that you do with a cell phone. The only option is to talk or not to talk and since people were encouraged to call someone they love, so much emotion came out. It’s different to hear someone tell you that they love you rather than to just receive a text message that says it ya know?” Matt explained.

The project shows a softer side to New Yorkers than we usually see and also reveals that while text messages and emails are very convenient, an unexpected phone call is good way to put a smile on someone’s face.

Call Someone


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