We’re a nation glued to our phones with more than half of us using our devices within 15 minutes of waking up, then barely taking a breather throughout the day.
In his ongoing series ‘Caught in the App’, photographer Ritzo ten Cate details the disturbing impact this modern-day addiction is having on society.
The photographer, from the Netherlands, captures unsuspecting members of public walking down the street using their phones. His aim is to encourage us all to be more self-aware of our use of technology.
“Smartphones are great and valuable, but we should be aware of addictive and unhealthy behaviour,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“I compare it to water. Water is healthy, we cannot live without. But do we live with a garden hose in our mouths? Nope. We drink water when we want to and use it to wash the dishes, take a shower or flush the toilet. And that’s how we should learn to use our smartphones too - in a healthy, valuable way.”
Ritzo was inspired to start taking the photos due to his “own heavy use” of technology.
“I’ve been trying to use my smartphone less and in a more healthy way since 2007. Simply because it doesn’t feel okay. You lose energy. You lose contacts. And my girlfriend kept pointing my phone use out to me,” he explains.
He began to take the images in his hometown of Groningen, the Netherlands, before moving his project here to the UK.
“I was in London for a festival and discovered the huge number of ‘zombies’ and then I decided to make a London series,” he says.
“In five days I shot 300 pictures and selected 38. A similar number took me half a year in my hometown.”
To capture the images, Ritzo finds a busy street and waits with his camera poised. People distracted by their phones practically walk into his lens and he snaps just before the moment of contact. He describes the moment strangers notice his presence as them “waking up”.
“My intention is to bring them back into our world. Nothing more, nothing less. No aggression. No judgement. They walk, give me their glimpses, we usually talk and they move on,” he says.
When people stop to chat to Ritzo, he asks permission to use their photo in the series and enquires what they were using their phone for.
He says in the vast majority of cases, the reason for using a phone is “nothing urgent”, with scrolling through Whatsapp, Instagram, Tinder or a news site among common answers.
“Most of them actually feel caught and immediately admit that they are addicted and that it’s rather silly to use a smartphone like this,” he explains.
“Most of them thank me for waking them up and congratulate me with my project. With my series I’m holding up a mirror and let people discover themselves what they think of this behaviour and what they want to do about it.”
The photographer intends to extend his project to more cities in the near future to show our high consumption of technology is a global issue.
Check out more images from the series so far below, or visit Ritzo ten Cate’s website to see more of his work.