“I’m not attempting to tell others what to do with their time, I’m just hopefully offering up a moment of realization.” – Pickergill
American photographer Eric Pickersgill uses photography as a method of investigating the questions that are most interesting to him. In a series he did called “Removed” the questions were: “How addicted (connected) are we to our cell phone?” and “How disconnected is this making us from reality?”
“I just personally need the reminder to put it down because it is an addiction.” – Pickersgill
The concept behind the series is to highlight how people are loosing precious time with friends and loved ones. These lost moments and unmade memories are the somber consequence of today’s lifestyle dominated by hyperconnectivity and smartphone addiction. Pickersgill’s aim was to portray the gap between connected life and reality within common everyday situations.
“Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves.” -Pickergill
He was inspired to do these photos from a moment he experienced in a café . As he was sitting there watching the world around him he noticed a family eating a meal together…well, separately together.
Here are his notes from that observation:
“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.”
This observance made him question. The questioning made him need to investigate to get answers. The investigation he does through the art of photography. And thus the spark of imagination has lit up in his creative mind. He got a vision to make a set of photos that show people together, but not engaging in any interaction between each other, in everyday settings, focussing solely on their smartphones, but without the device in their hands.
In our modern world such is a normal scene – people staring at a mobile device. However, by removing the phone from the picture but leaving the people in the environment unchanged, you really notice how abnormal the image actually is. Pickergill did a recreation of this image by asking participants to act normally with their phones, which he then removed before taking each photo.
“In similar ways that photography transformed the lived experience into the photographable, performable, and reproducible experience…personal devices are shifting behaviors while simultaneously blending into the landscape by taking form as being one with the body.” – Pickergill
“This phantom limb is used as a way of signaling 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.” – Pickergill
These images are intended to make you question, as he questioned himself and everyone around him. Are you turning down opportunities to make memories with those around you…memories that you would all be able to cherish for the rest of your life? Are you sharing more time with a mobile device than with the important people of your life? What if you knew you’d never see them again, would you put your phone away?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then hopefully these photos will inspire you to put down your phone and give your attention instead to the people who really matter – the ones who are with you in the present moment.