Family celebration, Scottsdale Civic Center, Scottsdale, Arizona
I photographed this family as it gathered in the park for a celebratory get-together. The purple and white balloons are the key to the nature of the event. Perhaps they are school colors, and represent a graduation? The kids seem to cluster around a toddler, while the man, the highest point of the picture, represents the parent in control of the evening. Yet the person that actually dominates this image is the woman who turns away from the group to attend to the demands of her cell phone. She is part of the celebration, but she is also quite far away at this moment.
Tension, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
I saw this person at a distance, sitting by the sea, hunching forward in a nearly collapsed beach chair. He was talking on a cellular phone while a pair of surfers played on the Pacific’s waves behind him. His body language expresses tension, while his context incongruously suggests a place for relaxation and pleasure. I composed the image so that the layered supporting context helps tell the story. The diagonal tire tracks in the sand at bottom echoes the diagonal position of the chair’s back, as well as the horizontal thrust of nearby Pacific Beach’s Crystal Pier in the background. The anxious man is squeezed between them.
Boxed, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
It is the spare geometric context that makes this image of a person talking on a cell phone work as expression. I compose the image as a series of boxes and surfaces, enclosing the subject’s head and hand as a symptom of disembodiment. On one hand, she is reaching out to talk with someone out of the box. Yet she herself stands within a series of enclosures – a brown wall separates her from the foreground, a yellow wall surrounds the opening in which she stands, and within that wall, a doorway packages her head in a black void. This image could represent a society that steadily drifts away from face-to-face interpersonal communication, in favor of detached, disembodied cellular contact.
On the wall, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
This man stands on the wall of the Mission Beach Boardwalk, but instead of savoring the view of the sea at sunset, he intently studies the screen of a cellular telephone. This image chronicles our dependence on cellular technology, and demonstrates how it can ensnare us, perhaps distracting us from enjoying the beauty and spontaneity of a very special time and place. Is what we see on a screen of a cell phone more significant than the beach we intended to enjoy? That is the question this image asks the viewer.
Sunbather, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
It is an hour before sunset, and this sunbather takes the opportunity to catch the last rays of her day at the beach. While she does so, she holds an electronic device to her ear – it glows within her fingers. Using my spot-metering mode, I expose on the bright light reflecting off her legs, making the surrounding sand darker and the rest of the image feature the interplay of light and shadow. She seems utterly relaxed, a tribute, perhaps, to what she may hear coming from that glowing receiver. Is it the voice of a person, a recorded message, or a piece of music? I leave the answers up to our own imaginations.
Window seat, New York City, New York, 2010
Because of the nature of cellular reception, people will often converse near a window. Perhaps this man is doing just that, or maybe he just wants to watch the world go by from his front window as he makes or takes a call. I liked the layering opportunity I had here – the steel bars express the rhythm and the needs of urban living. An old shutter makes up the next layer, leading across the frame to a man who blocks his identity with the phone, yet at the same time expresses his feelings with an eloquent hand gesture.
Trouble, New York City, New York, 2010
The flowers that separate a sidewalk café from the sidewalk itself make a tempting target for the curious hands of this youngster. The baby-sitter (probably its father), is momentarily distracted by something on the screen of his smartphone. By shooting the child from behind, and simultaneously shooting the man as he hides behind his hand and phone, I abstract both subjects and invite the viewer’s imagination to join in the fun. We see neither of their faces here. Instead we wonder how long it may take the man to discover what is going on amidst the flowers.
Green light, New York City, New York, 2010
He has successfully managed to cross the vast expanse of Park Avenue, and the instant his foot touches the curb, he is at work thumbing his cell phone. Oblivious to all else, the call is what is on his mind. I used a 14mm superwideangle lens to stretch the scene here – the man at the curb is virtually right next to me, yet the lens retains the sweep of the street markings and embraces the towering buildings on both sides of the avenue.
Doubletalk, New York City, New York, 2010
I make this image of a cellular conversation incongruous by the incorporating the reflection in the background. The gesture is repeated twice, as is the intense expression. A logo of a reflected truck fills the background, while a mysterious headless figure is also reflected between the truck and the woman on the phone.
Smoker, New York City, New York, 2010
This caller exhales a cloud of smoke as she carries on a conversation while leaning against a wall of a Fifth Avenue hotel. She carries two bags on her shoulders, as well as a cigarette in her hand. Her eyes are closed, as she concentrates on what he is saying and hearing. I shot the picture from across the avenue, using a long 400mm lens. A taxi interjects itself between camera and subject, giving the image a vividly colored sense of place.
Courier call, New York City, New York, 2010
A courier has just parked his motorbike on the sidewalk, and checks his phone next to an incongruous environmental advertisement. He is absorbed with his phone and does not even see the man in the ad, who wears a protective suit and drifts on a sea of indifference. The courier is intent, while the man in the ad seems helpless.
Lunch at Beckett’s, New York City, New York, 2010
A lone outdoor diner studies the screen of his phone, while ignoring the array of these downtown restaurant servers standing in the door behind him. The servers ignore him as well, even though they seem as if they have little to do at the moment. The image is a study in incongruous relationships, triggered by the cell phone in the hand of the lone customer.