The data we leave behind

I was walking down a street I’ve crossed a thousand times listening to my latest Spotify playlist whilst checking who had commented on my daily Instagram post.

I didn’t see the bus, those things are pretty big and loud usually.
It didn’t see me either, I heard my bones crack and then black…

Game over

We never really talk about it. Yet you see it everywhere in the news, through our little screens. It’s not a joyful subject of conversation I must admit.

Death surrounds us, yet we rarely experience it closely.


My friend at the cafe is probably wondering why I’m late. He tries to call me but notices that I have my phone turned off which is something odd as we’re in the middle of the day. He sent me a Facebook message and waited about 20 minutes before leaving, thinking that I may have forgotten our meeting.

My mom get the news first from the hospital, exactly half an hour after. I always have my ID on me and they got my mother number listed on their files.

It takes a day or two before some of my close friends notice I’m not answering calls and messages. A few of them will be given the information that I’m not here anymore.

Quickly the news spread through my Facebook friends, first by private messages and then a few public posts. The likes on my profile pictures increase, as well as the number of comments. Even if most of them are just a simple “RIP” there’s also very touching ones from friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I wish I could reply, tell them how much I love all of them.

I feel ashamed because I’ve spent more time working these past few weeks rather than taking the time to see the people who care about me. I guess it’s too late for regrets now.


My Facebook wall shows a picture of me at a local photography festival.
I keep appearing in the “People you may know” section.

People are still watching my Youtube tutorials, reading my Medium posts and giving claps for them. Today I even got new followers on Instagram!

They will probably not notice the comments on my last post…


I keep receiving emails from clients, one of them is upset because he’s tried to contact me over the last week. How could they know?

A magazine is waiting for my answers to their interview. I got this project for a book with a London editor, it should be published next in a few months.

All my documents, invoices, offers, plane tickets, videos, music albums.

Three years of emails from five different addresses (two personal ones, three used for side projects I was running), most of them are on my touch-id protected phone.

The files are there on my computer or on Dropbox, secured behind randomly generated passwords I’m the only one to know.


My twenty-five thousand photographs, from old to new projects. Lot of them are waiting to be processed. I wanted to update my portfolio this week.

My phone is locked, there’s maybe only two people that know my height digit code but will they think about giving it to my family?

My parents really wanted to publish a goodbye letter on my Facebook wall.

Too bad, I’ve enabled login approvals (a two factor authentification system) so even with the correct password they wouldn’t be able to connect.


If only I died one hundred year ago, I would have left tons of manuscript notes and printed photographs. All my memory would be physical and my family could consult it. I guess this would help them a lot, emotionally.

I sometimes think about what would happen if I die but I’ve never took the time to plan how my memories would be handled.

Most of our life is now virtual and will live forever enclosed in a big unbreakable glasshouse. You can see most of it through the exterior but you cannot enter nor modify anything inside.

If post-death memories are the “product” and the family and close friends the “users” then I’m sorry to say but the accessibility of that is close to zero.


We have so many tools to manage our health, sport activity, monitor our sleep, schedule posts on social network, keep our passwords secured, find cool restaurants, meet new people, write articles, compare prices online, make voice-overs, translate in all languages, sync our calendars, fill tax forms, order food from our desk, find a car and make our life “easier”.

We’re slowly giving everything to the cloud. Uploading ourself piece by piece but where is our backup of those digital memories we have?

Something we could send automatically once our brain stop functioning, for our loved ones to have another way to mourn and maybe finally erase the steps we left in the snow. If we could just run a simple command line…

$ chmod 777 samuelzeller


Thank you very much for reading. I’m a photographer based in Geneva, Switzerland, some of my work is visible on my website and on Instagram.