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“This is how we spend our most intimate moments.” Photographer removes phones from photos to show how isolating they are


“As I fall asleep next to my wife, we rest back to back on our sides coddling our small, cold, illuminated devices every night.”

This is one of the many routine moments that triggered photographer Eric Pickersgill to take a stand against his and modern society's addiction to their smart devices.

In a project titled Removed, he's been snapping people he meets in everyday moments with one significant rule - no smart phones allowed.

The “portraits are of individuals who appear to be holding personal devices although the devices have been physically removed from the sitter’s hand,” he writes. 

The man from North Carolina is hoping to portray the everyday obsession we have with our smartphones and how it's causing us to disconnect with the people and environment around us.

“I had to settle up with my own transgressions,” he tells Tech Insider. “It was a way of addressing an issue I had with my own habits, but one I also have with my wife. Maybe it was passive aggressive having her pose for this photo, but it’s one that we recreate every night.”

For his photographs, he approaches his subjects and asks them to hold their stare and posture as he removes their devices from their hands. Then he snaps the shot. He also reenacts some of the scenes he experiences daily, such as drivers looking down on their phones while their vehicle is moving.

“I have this fantasy in my head that there will be a backlash against technology because of how it separated kids from their parents and friends when they were young,” Pickersgill says.

He might be onto something. We take a look at his most poignant work and the stories behind them below.

“While on vacation in West Jefferson, NC with friends, Pickersgill walked out onto the porch — which had a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains — and saw his friends sharing what could have been a romantic moment.”

Romantic moment

Pictured are Ashley's neighbours: “That’s exactly the scene I walked in on. Other than removing the phones, I didn’t have to stage this at all.”

Women neighbours standing

“I see this family at the grocery store, in classrooms, on the side of the highway.” 


Two brothers and a neighbour demonstrate how many children “play together” nowadays


Courtlyn and Sarah check their news feed as they relax after a day at work in public education administration.


“We were driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and when we stopped to take in the view, she decided to photograph the landscape with her device. The gesture seemed so odd that I removed her device so I could photograph the way she was holding it. The shape of her hand becomes peculiarly unfamiliar.”


Debbie and Kevin are waiting for other friends to arrive at their dock on Lake Norman, North Carolina.

waiting for other friends to arrive at their dock on Lake Norman, NC.

“Cameron was on her scooter near UNC Chapel Hill and was checking her phone at a stop light. By the time I caught up to her she had pulled her scooter over to text a friend she was picking up from campus.”


In the scene, the family is waiting on a pizza to arrive and are simply “killing time in their dull moments as time passed”.

“I have this fantasy in my head that there will be a backlash against technology because of how it separated kids from their parents and friends when they were young,” Pickersgill said.

The most staged image of the series. “I thought the image might strike a chord with anyone who has experienced loss from a texting-while-driving incident,” Pickersgill said.


See more photographs in the Removed series at ericpickersgill.com.



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