Earlier this year, Removed, a photo series by North Carolina photographer Eric Pickersgill, reemerged online through viral posts, showcasing “life without cell phones.” Before he took each portrait, the photo subject was asked to pose while holding a cell phone. Pickersgill then physically removed the device from their hands, leaving image after image of people staring into invisible objects: a couple in bed, kids on a couch, people at a dinner table.cover story on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which is facing a contentious labor battle and a shrinking newsroom, we took inspiration from Removed and created our own photo series showing glimpses of life in Pittsburgh without a newspaper. CP photographer Jared Wickerham asked our models to pose throughout the city as if reading a Post-Gazette, then photographed them reading an invisible medium. One model sat at a bench in Downtown Pittsburgh, another at home, a third, in a coffee shop. Riding across the Monongahela River on a Port Authority light-rail car, model Carolina Loyola-Garcia took it a step forward, flipping through invisible pages with her thumb as nearby passengers pretended not to notice.
Pickersgill first began his ongoing photo series back in 2015, but his images continue to provoke heated discussions online every time they reappear. In his artist’s statement for the series, Pickersgill writes, “The joining of people to devices has been rapid and unalterable.” He refers to cell phones as a “phantom limb” and his series alludes to an obsession with technology replacing human interaction. Some online comments have said the series shows how “silly” our addictions are; that we are wasting precious time; that we should be spending less time on our phones and “more time living.”
What does a city look like without a newspaper? This week, we tried to show it through photographs. But really, let’s hope we never find out.