We've all done it: blanked out the world around us to stare at the beguiling screen of our mobile phone.

The photographer Eric Pickersgill has captured what this means for our personal lives in a series of disconcerting images. The project is called Removed, because Pickersgill physically removes the phones from his subjects' hands, but asks them to hold their posture and focus.

Removed is a series of large format black and white photographs that are of individuals performing as if they are using their devices although their phones and tablets have been physically removed from their hands moments prior to the exposure.The original body of work was created in 2014-2015 in North Carolina, United States of America. Since 2016 new work has been created in Paris, India, Veitnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia with hopes of expanding these locations in the neat future. 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.After the project went viral with international demand overnight in late 2015, I have made it a goal to exhibit the work within as many communities as possible. The work is striking when seen online however it becomes transformational when experienced in person as exhibition prints. The photographs operate as mirrors that help viewers question their own use of technology. The smart phone and the Internet will be known as the industrial revolution of our time and these photograp
Eric Pickersgill, 2018
Image: ©Eric Pickersgill, 2018

The idea was prompted by a commonplace visit to a café, which Pickersgill wrote about as follows:

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.

Pickersgill is not set on demonizing the smartphone, but drawing attention to the way it can erode our relationships if we're not aware of our habits.

"I think there are many reasons to use our devices and I certainly have a professional relationship with mine. I also do not want to pass judgment on people who may be using a device to look up a popular coffee shop or perhaps checking in to let their loved one know that they made it to a destination safely. When I made the series it was a response to realizing how quickly my own habits had shifted and how much my wife and I were on our phones which was not the case when we first started dating," he explained, by email.

Removed is a series of large format black and white photographs that are of individuals performing as if they are using their devices although their phones and tablets have been physically removed from their hands moments prior to the exposure.The original body of work was created in 2014-2015 in North Carolina, United States of America. Since 2016 new work has been created in Paris, India, Veitnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia with hopes of expanding these locations in the neat future. 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.After the project went viral with international demand overnight in late 2015, I have made it a goal to exhibit the work within as many communities as possible. The work is striking when seen online however it becomes transformational when experienced in person as exhibition prints. The photographs operate as mirrors that help viewers question their own use of technology. The smart phone and the Internet will be known as the industrial revolution of our time and these photograp
Eric Pickersgill, 2018
Image: ©Eric Pickersgill, 2018

"The work has drastically changed my relationship to my phone," the photographer added. "Especially as a new father, because I do not want to normalize constant screen time for my young son. I am very strict about not bringing it to bed at night and I am purposeful about not going to it when I find myself between tasks or waiting for something. Those times when we let our mind wander are when the most brilliant ideas come to us. When we fill the empty time with more distraction, we never truly spend time with our thoughts or with ourselves. That time of reflection and meditation is priceless. It can often afford us the clarity to make decisions that really change our lives for the better."

Removed is a series of large format black and white photographs that are of individuals performing as if they are using their devices although their phones and tablets have been physically removed from their hands moments prior to the exposure.The original body of work was created in 2014-2015 in North Carolina, United States of America. Since 2016 new work has been created in Paris, India, Veitnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia with hopes of expanding these locations in the neat future. 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.After the project went viral with international demand overnight in late 2015, I have made it a goal to exhibit the work within as many communities as possible. The work is striking when seen online however it becomes transformational when experienced in person as exhibition prints. The photographs operate as mirrors that help viewers question their own use of technology. The smart phone and the Internet will be known as the industrial revolution of our time and these photograp
Eric Pickersgill, 2018
Image: ©Eric Pickersgill, 2018

A Deloitte study found that Americans check their phones on average 46 times per day, while more than half of the world’s population now uses a smartphone.

Removed is a series of large format black and white photographs that are of individuals performing as if they are using their devices although their phones and tablets have been physically removed from their hands moments prior to the exposure.The original body of work was created in 2014-2015 in North Carolina, United States of America. Since 2016 new work has been created in Paris, India, Veitnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia with hopes of expanding these locations in the neat future. 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.After the project went viral with international demand overnight in late 2015, I have made it a goal to exhibit the work within as many communities as possible. The work is striking when seen online however it becomes transformational when experienced in person as exhibition prints. The photographs operate as mirrors that help viewers question their own use of technology. The smart phone and the Internet will be known as the industrial revolution of our time and these photograp
Eric Pickersgill, 2018
Image: ©Eric Pickersgill, 2018

In Asia, the mobile phone has exploded onto the scene. ASEAN is one of the fastest-growing emerging smartphone markets, with people on average spending 3.6 hours on the mobile internet every day.

These images are from a special series of Removed, commissioned by the World Economic Forum as part of our ASEAN 2018 summit which is taking place in Ha Noi, Viet Nam from September 11-13.

Pickersgill travelled to four cities in the region ‒ Ha Noi, Yangon, Singapore and Jakarta ‒ where he was hosted by members of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community.

The images may capture different settings, but the expressions are strikingly familiar.

Removed is a series of large format black and white photographs that are of individuals performing as if they are using their devices although their phones and tablets have been physically removed from their hands moments prior to the exposure.The original body of work was created in 2014-2015 in North Carolina, United States of America. Since 2016 new work has been created in Paris, India, Veitnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia with hopes of expanding these locations in the neat future. 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.After the project went viral with international demand overnight in late 2015, I have made it a goal to exhibit the work within as many communities as possible. The work is striking when seen online however it becomes transformational when experienced in person as exhibition prints. The photographs operate as mirrors that help viewers question their own use of technology. The smart phone and the Internet will be known as the industrial revolution of our time and these photograp
Eric Pickersgill, 2018
Image: ©Eric Pickersgill, 2018