Eric Pickersgill at Rick Wester Fine Art
Image above: ©Eric Pickersgill, Michelle and Jimmy, 2014, Archival pigment print, printed 2016 / Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art
What is Left when Technology is Removed?
By removing the mobile devices from his images, Eric Pickersgill reveals what may already be missing
Images above: Elizabeth Mealey, Opening Night, Top Right: Artist with wife
Eric Pickersgill’s first solo exhibition, Removed, opened on March 25th at Rick Wester Fine Art. Pickersgill’s images feature subjects who are engrossed in their mobile devices, but with the actual devices removed. The photographs represent visually what so many of us know to be true—that in the very act of connecting to the world through our phones, we are often taken out of the moment, becoming disconnected from the world—and the people—immediately around us. The images depict situations that range from almost comfortingly familiar (someone taking a landscape picture with their phone), to intentionally disquieting (a woman glancing down and away from the road while seeming to head towards an oncoming car).
Image above: ©Eric Pickersgill, Angie and Me, 2014, Archival pigment print, printed 2016 / Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art
By removing the object that his subject is connecting to (or connected through), pickersgill reveals the disconnection inherent in our age of connectivity. A person taking a photograph of a landscape, with their phone removed, is no longer connecting with the landscape, or anything else. Three children on a couch playing with their tablets, with the devices removed, are not playing with anything or anyone.
Image above: ©Eric Pickersgill, Grant, 2014, Archival pigment print, printed 2016 / Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art
The most powerful images are of couples. Often shown snuggling together, the physical closeness of Pickersgill’s couples serves to underscore their disconnection: despite their intimacy, they are turned from each other, absorbed by something that connects them to the outside world but distances them from their partner. Most striking of these is the artist’s self-portrait: In the final moments before sleep, he lies in bed with his wife, his back touching hers as they stare into their empty palms. Importantly, it was the artist’s own life, in moments such as these, that inspired the entire collection of images.
Image above: ©Eric Pickersgill, Phyllis Driving, 2014, Archival pigment print, printed 2016 / Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art
One morning, after having fallen asleep with his phone in hand, Pickersgill awoke to find that though the phone had fallen away, his hand was sculpted around it’s shape, as if still clasping it. “That was the ‘aha moment,’” he said. “I immediately went and jotted it down.” From this inspiration came the series of images, some planned and posed, others capturing moments with strangers on the street. In each case, the artist would physically remove the devices from his subjects’ hands moments before pressing the shutter. Looking at the pictures, it is easy to assume that the devices are photoshopped out, but Pickersgill decided against this, opting instead to involve his subjects in the process, in a way that felt more collaborative (and connected?).
Image above: ©Eric Pickersgill, Courtlyn and Sarah, 2014, Archival pigment print, printed 2016 / Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art
Though many of Pickersgill’s images pose a warning about the emotional and physical dangers of being distracted from the present, they read less as a sermon than as a meditation. While contemplating technologies’ role in his own life, the artist invites both his subjects, and viewers, to examine it’s place in our own.