‘Removed’ Photo Series Shows How We Actually Look When We Obsess With Smartphone

Oct 13, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

‘Removed’ Photo Series Shows How We Actually Look When We Obsess With Smartphone

Oct 13, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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Have you ever considered how weird we look when we constantly stare at our smartphones (see, I did not say iPhone here) even at the most intimate of situations?

Photographer Eric Pickersgill did, and the result is a strong series – Removed – showing how the connection between us and the world comes at the expense of the connection between ourselves.

Eric did not do a lot. He only subtracted any smartphone device from real life scenes, yet asking his models to keep their gaze and focus. The result is on the epiphany level revelation.

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Eric shares with us how the series came to be:

The series began when I was at an artist residency in upstate New York last year, just a few weeks after getting married. The residency was at CAC Woodside and while there I became really home sick and wanted to be with family which I think was this response to just getting married and not wanting to be away. So I spent the mornings working at this little cafe 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 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.

It startled me into noticing the use of phones a lot and was also around the time that other artists where photographing the use of people with devices kind of in a photojournalistic style. I knew that I didn’t want to make photographs of people just using the devices. That seemed too exploitative to just walk around and point the camera at people without their participation or perhaps their implication in the whole thing.

One night after getting back from the residency I slipped back into my old ways of using my device while in bed with my wife despite having that moment of realization in New York. As my eyes began to slowly close while checking my 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. The device being removed also means that the person in the photograph must perform this gesture. They know what the photograph is about and are willing to work with me to make this art. It is a collaboration of sorts.

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Eric tells us that the series has been on display in several shows and reaction was pretty mixed. I can see why. Seeing those photos makes one realize how disengaged with our surroundings we are when actually we feel fully engaged with our emails and social media profiles.

The response to the work has been varied. In the context of gallery shows there has been a range of responses. Some seeing the image of the potential head on collision feel embarrassed or perhaps emotional if they have been impacted by an accident caused by this. Others, specifically when accessing the content online, proudly exclaim “hypocrite” or “too bad I’m reading this on a device”. My reaction to that is one of satisfaction. These photographs are existing in peoples lives as a way to make them pay attention to this social shift. I’m not attempting 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.

I think ‘digital detoxing’ is a weird way to say that. I think calling technology ‘toxic’ just doesn’t add up with the reality of the thing. I suppose the creation of computer waste and industry is toxic on the planet but in the context of “detoxing” oneself from all things digital just makes for an off balance comparison. Maybe this is semantics. 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. Right now in the launch of this project it has been getting a lot of attention and I am finding myself really sucked into communicating with others and trying to be timely in responding to people about the work. I feel like I owe people that.

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[removed | Eric Pickersgill]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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6 responses to “‘Removed’ Photo Series Shows How We Actually Look When We Obsess With Smartphone”

  1. Duncan Everson Avatar
    Duncan Everson

    …which, ironically, I’m looking at on my smartphone.

  2. newarchivist Avatar
    newarchivist

    It’s funny – we are calling some of these folks disengaged, when they are engaging with their smartphones to make photographs of their surroundings. I agree with the sentiment of the series, but there is sometimes a fine line between engagement and dis-engagement. Is taking a selfie or snapshot engaged with the environment even if it’s disengaged from those around you? Or vice-versa? How is it different if I have a dSLR in hand vs. a iphone?

  3. Ray Deakin Avatar
    Ray Deakin

    I think people are missing the point here a little. Look around at a resturant or cafe where couples or groups are all on their smartphones interacting with someone else who’s somewhere else. We were at the theatre the other week and during the interval the audience lit up as everyone checked to see if their friends were doing something more interesting then watching Dirty Dancing. At a Robbie Williams show just now a woman next to me was so content in photographing and posting on Facebook that I feel she missed a really great act right in front of her. She can review the minutes of video, that cost $160 to take, at a later date.

  4. Mark Niebauer Avatar
    Mark Niebauer

    Smart phones became the most successful mind control experiment of all time.

  5. Cesar Sales Avatar
    Cesar Sales

    Some work better than others – mostly the ones that are believable. I found some – like the tractor and the guy standing in his yard – to not further the concept at all. With some editing, this will be a powerful project. I think the one of the people in the bed should be the benchmark.

  6. Amy Jones Avatar
    Amy Jones

    Lonely