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A Photographer Stole Our Smartphones!

Get a new perspective on the the human-smartphone machine with Eric Pickersgill's 'Removed' photo series.

Johannes Hausen

Johannes Hausen


"Angie and Me", self-portrait of the photographer. All images courtesy of Eric Pickersgill

Hands grasp into the void, eyes roam into empty space, necks crane, but there's nothing beneath them: At close glance, photographer Eric Pickersgill's Remove photo series serves as an ergonomic analysis of the man-machine relationship. One step back, you realize all the smartphones are gone. 

Pickersgill's warm black-and-white photographs show people looking at absent screens. With a large-format 9 x 12 monorail camera, he creates scenes of absence—or presence, given that they don't feel like photos that were taken before we had the technology. 

One particular image rests in the mind of the photographer, etched indelibly on him during a job as a waiter:

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.

When he then, a few weeks later, woke up to the sound of a ring and found himself already cluching his smartphone, Pickersgill made the decision to portray the omnipresent human-computer interaction of our day in his own way. "I realized that the absence of the equipment makes it more present."

As a result, Pickersgill asked several people on the street if he could photograph them. Willing to work with appropriate gestures to simulate the use of a smartphone, and allowing Pickersgill plenty of time to fully exploit his camera equipment, they became the subjects of Removed

"They had to be very patient with me, because I use a large camera that leaves much room for error. I need to be very focused and well-considered," Pickersgill tells The Creators Project. "That's something that I love about the work: it allows me to meet people and to break the ice with strangers. It provides us with a platform to interact and to do something together. "

Of his works, Pickersgill explains, "I think the most effective is the most powerful image of me and my wife, 'Angie and Me,' [...] As soon as you recognize yourself in a picture, you will be aware of what's going on. The bed is also a very intimate place and others probably recognize the same situation."

Check out more from the Removed photo series below: 

The complete Removed photo series can be found here. Click here for more from Eric Pickersgill. 

This article has been translated from the original version which appeared on The Creators Project Germany. 

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