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Photographer Removes Our Smartphones to Show Our Strange and Lonely New World

In Eric Pickersgill's "Removed" photos, people stare at their hands, or the empty space between them, ignoring opportunities for human connection.

Quartz
couple back to back in bed starting at their empty hands

Out of hand. Photos by Eric Pickersgill

Are you reading this on a handheld device? There’s a good chance you are. Now imagine how’d you look if that device suddenly disappeared. Lonely? Slightly crazy? Perhaps next to a person being ignored? As we are sucked in ever more by the screens we carry around, even in the company of friends and family, the hunched pose of the phone-absorbed seems increasingly normal.

US photographer Eric Pickersgill has created “Removed,” a series of photos to remind us of how strange that pose actually is. In each portrait, electronic devices have been “edited out” (removed before the photo was taken, from people who’d been using them) so that people stare at their hands, or the empty space between their hands, often ignoring beautiful surroundings or opportunities for human connection. The results are a bit sad and eerie—and a reminder, perhaps, to put our phones away.

two guys at a grill staring at their empty hands

4 women in a garage staring at their empty hands

a girl sitting at a table looking at her emoty hands while people look at her

a couple cuddling and staring at nothing in their hands

a couple cuddling on a couch and staring at nothing in their hands

3 boys on a couch starting at their empty hands
a family bbqing outside staring at the nothingness in their hands

an adult and child on a couch starting at their empty hands

Clarification: This story has been updated, and the headline has been changed to make clear the phones were removed before each photo, not edited out later.