Safe and warm in front of the soft glow of my iPhone, I huddled in bed this morning listening to the sound of rain slapping the pavement outside. Light rain on concrete sounds a bit like Rice Krispies noisily bathing in breakfast milk, I thought to myself. Turning my attention back to my iPhone, I had notification of a new email from my editor, it was a link to a photo series on how phones affect us. Fitting, I thought, blushing under that pale glow that only gadgets can emit. I sometimes wonder if it's a coincidence that the technological glow is one of the most unflattering lights, increasing the shadows on the folds of our faces and highlighting every bump and imperfection. Are we meant to look ugly when hiding from the world behind our phones?
Turns out, Antoine Gieger, a 20-year-old artist from France, has some ripe and heady thoughts on the matter. The aforementioned photo series depicts a world of mobile phone users who prefer to not let their attention pass the distance of the screen in front of them. The photo subjects occupy museums, historic monuments, busy streets, moving bicycles, social gatherings, but do not look up. "What a lifeless, impersonal dystopia," you say? Very unfortunately, this is a prime example of art imitating life. The photos are candid, using natural and available lighting, offering a hyper-realistic field of view and creating the feel of a human zoo. Gieger adds a modified digital rendering of the photos by stretching the faces to meet the phone screens, obscuring identities and obliterating whatever humanity might once been captured.
After consulting Geiger's artist statement, featuring amazingly poetic zingers like "Your arm isn’t long enough for your ego, no problem, selfie stick is here" and "This polymorphous inter-face is turning into a dialogue between your neurosis and your psychosis," I knew I had to talk to him. Without knowing anything about him, he was already my dream philosophy professor that I never had. And so, thanks to that same attention and life-sucking screen he seemingly condemns us for using, I reached out to him for a quick chat.
Why do you think we're more interested in our phones than in experiencing the world and interacting with people, face-to-face?
GEIGER: I don't know if we're really more interested in it, but it's a comfortable way to get bored, or to stop thinking. Because your screen provides you content, and because it's a nice way of escaping. We become curators of our lives, inducing it has any kind of interest. It's basically what I do with the project itself, whenever there's an article about the project, I share it on Facebook, and now your readers are seeing it on their screens too. I'm questioning this space, the digital space.
Do you think we associate safety with our phones?
GEIGER: It depends what you do with your phone, and what you do with other people. In the end I think phones are a great help for safety issues because their first function is to create contact between people. Not to be mixed with PRIVACY, which of course is maybe not so present when we start talking about social media...
Do you think we're missing out on our lives because of our addiction to our phones?
GEIGER: I don't think we miss it, I mean it's a complex topic. But we probably miss something more personal and more active yes.
What do you hope these pictures inspire people to do or think?
GEIGER: I don't really hope anything, I know some people will react really wrong, saying it's bullsh*t and they don't feel like their life is being affected by technology, but in a way this simple comment shows that they are, as they just shared an opinion on immaterial content, and that will probably affect their vision of other people, their conversations on that day... In the end I guess this project is a kind of mirror.
Learn more about Antoine Geiger and his photo series "SUR-FAKE" here.
Images: Courtesy Of Antoine Geiger