Eric Pickersgill’s ‘Removed’ Shows a World Consumed by Technology

Artist and Photographer
“Removed is a series of large format black and white photographs that are of individuals performing as if they are using their devices although thier phones and tablets have been physcially removed from their hands moments prior to the exposure. Removed avails performance, portraiture, and photography to question the physical utility of personal devices and the ways they influence society, relationships, and the body. The photographed scenes are derived from observations in my daily life. I ask the sitters to reenact my original observations and seconds before the exposure is made, I remove the device from the their hand. The sitter is asked to remain frozen as if they were still engaged with their device. The project is a form of intervention, calling attention to the use of devices by family members and those around me that I do not know. The making of the photograph operates as a way of disrupting the isolation I feel from strangers who barricade themselves behind their technology. This exchange creates new relationships while also asking the viewer to question their own device habits. I am excited by the way the viewer fills in the device at first look. It is as if the device has become one with the body and can be seen when not present.” – Eric Pickersgill

Technology has become a part of everyday life that consumes us and prevents us from truly enjoying life. Eric Pickersgill clearly demonstrates this in his series of 17 photos titled ‘Removed’, which captures the effects of technology on the world we live in today without ever actually photographing a device.

By solely including people, aging from young to old, and not the technology, Pickersgill captures a powerful image, allowing those viewing the photos to fill in the blanks with the objects they use each and every day.

The shots in the series are of relatable situations, allowing the viewer to connect with them. For example, the second photo in the series is an image we see far too often. Kids are together, but they aren’t actually together. Whereas the expected scenario would be young boys playing together, the image is rather unsettling as each is locked into his own world within his tablet.

All of the photos are shot from either a medium or wide shot range, which works well for this series because it allows you to see what’s going on around the central subject(s). In the photo of the couple who has just gotten married, the wide shot works well in order to see the car behind them that says “Just Married” and also show them both in wedding attire.

The series does not have a particular pace as it varies from highly shocking images, such as one that shows a woman staring at her phone about to crash head on into another car, to more casual images of an older man and woman relaxing in their living room, but entirely focused on their phones. This sharp contrast between images and situations works well to show how technology is everywhere, no matter where we are.

As for why the first and last pictures were chosen, there isn’t exactly a reason I can pinpoint. The first image is a strong beginning because it shows a couple in bed together, yet completely separated, with their backs turned, because of their phones. The last image shows a simple interaction between a man getting his hair cut by a woman, yet there is no interaction at all because the man is staring at his phone. Neither is exactly a beginning or end point, but they still successfully play into the broader picture.

The captions work very well throughout the entire photo series, telling of how technology serves as a distraction from everyday life activities and also providing insight on exactly what Pickersgill aimed to capture. For example, the image of the farmer driving his tractor is captioned by saying that back in the day, the only thing preoccupying farmers was their work, but as time has progressed, things have changed.

None of the images are taken from unusual angles or are graphically striking, yet are still powerful due to the black and white color. This prevents any distractions and allows you to focus on the central images of the people Pickersgill is photographing and their consumption with a device that isn’t visibly there.

In a world that is so consumed by technology, Pickersgill makes use of his camera to show how detrimental the devices we use are to our relationships and lives, and the photos he takes do a fantastic job in doing that.

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