Largely based in London, the photo series by photographer Ritzo ten Cate aims to capture the faces of people he almost literally bumps into on the street, as they look up from their phones, often rather disorientated.
Now more than ever, we are dependent on our phones. I’ll admit, when I need to travel somewhere, I’ll use my Tube Map app to find the route rather than think for myself. But this photo series serves as a reminder of how much phones are taking over.
Usually working in populated areas, he waits for people to walk almost straight into him – which is when he takes their portrait. Looking gormless as they break eye contact from their phone, ten Cate says he aims to “bring [people] back into our world,” but he also wishes to do so without any aggression or judgment. Surely, seeing a photo of yourself glued to your phone will be enough.
After taking a person's photo, ten Cate stops to talk to his subject and explain the project, whilst conscious not to be condescending or to preach to people about the usage of their own phones.
The photo series was inspired by ten Cate’s own addiction to Pokemon Go upon its release, which saw him get lost in his own town:
I felt like a zombie being totally unaware of my surroundings and my own presence. I decided to dive into it and started taking pictures of players. After a few rounds on the streets I moved on to taking street photographs of people using smartphones. ‘And then one girl looked up and I knew there was something special in it. It felt cold. A body without soul. I started making portraits and took these in my hometown.
Of the 500 people he has photographed, he claims only five have reacted unpleasantly once he explained what he was doing. Most people, though, admitted they were addicted to their phones.
Images used with permission.