It’s no secret that technology is pretty much taking over our lives.
Every day we wake up and the first thing we do is check our smartphone. Then we stare at Twitter for the whole of the train journey to work. Glance at Facebook in the office. Snapchat our mates when we get home…
But is all this technology having a damaging effect on us? Sure, we can keep in touch with people who live on the other side of the world easier than ever, but are we losing track with those who are actually sat right next to us?
That’s what photographer Eric Pickersgill has set out to explore in his eerie new ‘Removed’ photo series.
To make it evidently clear how reliant we’ve all become on our phones and tablets, he took them out of the images entirely.
It makes for a disconcerting scene – black and white images of disinterested children sat back-to-back ignoring their parents, friends disconnected from each other, couples in bed staring in opposite directions, a just married couple ignoring one another completely.
Eric, a professional photographer from New York, got the idea for the series while sitting in a café. The family sat opposite him were barely speaking, each fixated on their screens.
I spent the mornings working at this little café and 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.
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.
Eric was unable to get the image of the family out of his head, and he soon spotted similar scenes of people stuck on their phones – at supermarkets, on the streets, and even in his own bed at home as he and his wife began messing with their phones back-to-back before going to sleep.
Based on these observations, and to address the massive role technology now plays in our lives, Eric decided to remove smartphones and tablets from the pictures. Asking people to stay in the same position, he would carefully remove smartphones, tablets and other gadgets from their hands, so as to immortalise the moment perfectly.
And it makes for a striking statement.
Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves.
I do think you need to be aware of how long you are spending on your device and be deliberate about it. If using it in public is your intention and you don’t mind alienating other people then by all means have at it. I just personally need the reminder to put it down because it is an addiction. The affirmation of others that we get with these things feels good and we go back for it more and more.
So, step away from the phone! Well, after you’ve checked out the full series and more of Eric’s work here.