Removed, Eric Pickersgill’s photographic criticism of the Technology Age

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(TT) – Technology, specifically the mobile phone, has often been criticized for being one of the biggest detriments to or at least a growing thorn in the side of human interaction. It is distancing- it has turned drinks at a bar into a good time to check an Instragram or Twitter feed. It has metamorphosed dinner dates into hashtag foodies and nom-noms. It has changed breakfast with the family into a hyperconnected network of chronic smart phone abusers. There’s no doubt that the growing technology has affected the way people interact in society. It’s like the Walking Dead- except we are all turning into apps and IPhones and Samsungs.

Nevertheless, some believe the opposite to be true- they believe technology brings people closer together than ever before. A friend across the world on Facebook or Skype sums up how close humans, seemingly light years away, have actually become. But when you take a step back, as the proverbial fly on the wall, when strangers or associates get together, a lot of interactions boil down to sparing wittiness and a lot of awkward silences. This inverse relationship, between our growing technology and the dying art form that in-person human interaction is, has been highlighted by many through writing and expression. Now, Eric Pickersgill highlights this thought-provoking claim through photography.

“Removed”, the title of his piece, suggests that something is missing or bereft or void. It zooms in on what people look like when they don’t have mobile phones in hand and highlights the distance in proximity.

The Process

As Pickersgill, 29, embarked on the series, he thought about how mobile phones and the wealth of information they provide might be making society socially impoverished. He started by having family and friends pose with their devices, then slipping the phones out of their hands for a photo exposure. He moved onto approaching strangers who were on their devices in public, asking whether he could photograph them- and the pictures where amazing.

The Impetus for “Removed”– the Digital Age and Human Interaction

Conceptual artist and photographer, Eric Pickersgill had fallen asleep with his cell phone in hand when the device dropped and thumped onto the floor. Startled awake, he noticed his hand looked like it was still cradling the phone, thumb ready to scroll. He resolved to stop leaning on his phone so much, and complained to his wife, Angie, about their habit of using phones just before bed. The devices were often the last interaction each had before sleep, instead of with each other.

He was beholden to his phone even while unconscious.

The moment solidified an idea that had been percolating in Pickersgill’s mind since his trip to New York. He was working in a café one morning, seated next to a family of four- the hyperconnected family. The father and his two daughters were playing on their phones while the mother stared lonesomely out the window. He probably noticed how empty the mother felt as she contemplated these increasing instances of family time changing before her very own eyes. Those moments, with family or with anyone worthy enough to share a meal with, shouldn’t be taken for granted. He hopes the takeaway is that we pause to consider how much time we’re unnecessarily using our phones when we could be interacting with each other.

Enfin, mobile devices affect the way we interact, share, and communicate with others. They are growing in diversity and complexity, featuring new interaction paradigms, modalities, shapes, and purposes. They have become way more interesting than the insert-generic-flip-phone-here, blackberry with its tattered scroll ball, TREO, and every other previous line of planned obsolescent smart phones. And there’s no way to stop this trend, this infection, this new interaction- unless we make an app for it.

Should society be more worried that these lonely moments are growing in this technology age? Share your thoughts below…

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