We are a generation obsessed with technology. The ability to constantly document the world using one's mobile device has become the norm, no matter what the circumstances. Photographer Benjamin McMahon decided to start a photo study based on the social phenomenon. Here we present the beginnings of the study, his subjects blissfully unaware of their companions, surroundings or indeed McMahon himself snapping away.
The idea for the amusing project came about during a quiet dinner with a friend; “I noticed the people on the table next to me were sitting having a lovely meal together, but were all on their phones. I found it bizarre that people would go to that much effort to meet up and then basically ignore each other. Then I just kept noticing it everywhere I went – people not participating in life – and I couldn't stop myself taking a picture if I saw it happening.” Despite this, McMahon is not excluding himself from the offending party, claiming he can be “as guilty as anyone” when it comes to over indulgent phone use, "I don't think it's entirely negative, the fact that you can speak to anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world, that's amazing. But when it means you can't have a conversation with someone without having to keep checking your phone then it's not great."
"I just kept noticing it everywhere I went – people not participating in life – and I couldn't stop myself taking a picture if I saw it happening."
McMahon quotes J.B. Priestley to evoke the spirit of his images: “The more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” This is portrayed throughout the series as embracing couples, friends out shopping and colleagues all show their blatant (and sometimes hilarious) disregard for human contact in favour of their phones. Reassuringly however, he does occasionally come across slightly brighter sights, “The couples in the café worked quite well. One pair are lost entirely in their phones, the others staring lovingly at each other, it’s nice to know the latter still happens."
Text by Rhiannon Wastell