Photographer Removes Phones From Stunning Everyday Situations To Show Our Obsession

Photographer Eric Pickersgill is using his chosen medium as a social commentary on the topic regarding today’s society and our addiction to technology. In a clever way of expressing his point, he asked his subjects, models and participants to pose in his photos in everyday situations while mimicking the same reaction they would have while facing their smartphone screens. However, there is a catch, none of the participants are actually allowed to have any technological device in their hands. Pickersgill is very passionate about his new project and summed up the addiction to technology quite eloquently.

“This phantom limb is used as a way of expressing busyness and unapproachability to strangers while existing as an addictive force that promotes the splitting of attention between those who are physically with you and those who are not.”

The project is titled “Removed” and the pictures demonstrate the emptiness many associate with not having their electronic device readily on hand. There is an awkwardness to the appearances of the individuals in “Removed” as many are occupying the same space and time of another individual and yet they are not focused on each other. The quote from Pickersgill above gives deep insight into the electronic obsession phenomena and puts forth the suggestion that while phones can connect us to people who are further away, it does great damage by distancing persons from those within their immediate surroundings. On his site, Pickersgill spoke of how the “Removed” project was inspired by an observation of disconnect between a family in a cafe that Pickersgill dined in one day.

“Family sitting next to me at Illium café in Troy, NY is so disconnected from one another. Not much talking. Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. I am saddened by the use of technology for interaction in exchange for not interacting. This has never happened before and I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now.”

The pictures in “Removed” all do an astounding job of telling a story of how members of today’s society often discard the relevant time that should be shared by families, friends, and loved ones bonding in fellowship for their electronic devices. The empty space that smartphones or other electronic devices would occupy in each picture hints at the empty lives we lead when we make technology the center of our existence.

It is a habit that the majority of the world shares though, the obsession or dependence on electronic devices. According to reports from the Pew Research Center, via the article covered by Collective Evolution, 65 percent of American adults use social networking websites. The study began just 10-years ago in 2005, and from then the number has steadily increased from the 7 percent it was then and the introduction of “smarter” phones and other electronic devices only contributes to this. As Pickersgill suggested, the smartphone is an ideal tool for busyness, but the warning he has given to us in these photos is represented by the superficial nature of an awkward silence, unspoken words, and missed connections and has many persons considering their own phone interactions.

The severity of the “digital pandemic,” as the electronic obsession is being referred as, is highlighted by the fact that it is more commonplace and expected that most persons passed on the street will be staring at their devices as opposed to exchanging a “hello,” or a friendly smile with a stranger.

The central theme of Pickersgill’s “Removed” photos are explored in the article covered by Notable.ca, where the “phantom limb” has distracted people from those close to them. The warning to us is that the devices cannot take the place of a human connection, we need to prioritize those closest to us and value them more and real world experiences more than electronic devices. The fear expressed by Pickersgill’s body of work is that a day may come where we are so invested in the device that we lose out on how to properly engage each other in day-to-day life.

The fear is that a time may come, where emojis, images, emoticons, and games replace our most sincere feelings for each other. The photos serve as chilling reminders that while these devices are interactive, we also require interaction with the people and experiences around us, we should do well in the process of compulsory button pressing to not forget each other. We could all do with some time away from our electronic devices.

[All Photographs Courtesy of Eric Pickersgill]