These Disturbing Photos Capture How Smartphones Isolate Us from the World
Chances are you'll be reading this article on a smartphone, so this article sort of proves its own point. American photographer Eric Pickersgill decided to use smartphones for his latest project Removed , through which he tries to show us how smartphones have lost their original purpose, which was to bring people closer, and instead just alienate us from the world.
He tells Vagabomb how the idea first came to him at a cafe he spent his mornings working at, during a residency in New York last year, where he felt extremely home sick. “One morning I noticed this family eating breakfast together where they were all sharing the same physical space. However, they were engaging with people and content elsewhere, and maybe it was the beautiful light and the mother who wasn’t using a device that made me see the situation as a photograph. I didn’t make that picture but it exists in my mind as an image, a very emotionally charged image.”
The wave of inspiration came to him one night in bed, when he had fallen asleep while checking his emails. “I awoke to the sound of my phone hitting the floor. Before I thought to bend over the edge to pick it up I looked at my partially curled open palm resting on the edge of the bed that still held the shape of my dropped device. I realized that was how I would be able to make the photographs for Removed . The absence of the device points to it more so than if it were present.”
Instead of just wanting to take photographs of people using the device, Pickersgill wanted to show the absence of the device, which would involve the models consciously performing the gesture. Pickersgill calls it “a collaboration of sorts,” since the models “know what the photograph is about and are willing to work with me to make this art.”
Pickersgill tells us that the response to Removed has been quite varied. He prefers it when viewers who read this content online “proudly exclaim 'hypocrite' or 'too bad I’m reading this on a device,'” and adds that he's not trying to “tell others what to do with their time, I’m just hopefully offering up a moment of realization much like the one that I experienced in the cafe at the onset of the project.” The only thing he's trying to do, he says, is to make sure we, as users, are “aware of how long you are spending on your device and be deliberate about it.” And if your intention is to alienate people, “then by all means have at it.”
His primary point is that smartphones and modern technology is a way for him to be able to communicate with people, to build connections. In fact, this article serves as proof of that, considering we're based in two separate countries. He talks about how the launch of Removed has made Pickersgill spend more time communicating with a diverse group of people who are all interested in his work, who he feels he he owes a timely response to.
What's next for Pickersgill, as far as Removed is concerned? He tells us that the work on the photographs is done, but he plans to travel and hold physical installations in galleries and public spaces.