London-based photographer Babycakes Romero believes that smartphones have become a barrier to face-to-face communication, encouraging us to withdraw into awkward silences instead of engaging with one another. He thought if he could only show people what they looked like — hunched over, eyes glazed, peering into their small screens — it might make them question their behavior. Dramatically shot in black and white at various locations around the world, his photo series Death of Conversation holds the mirror up to all of us, and makes it clear just how right he might be.
"I do not actually have a smartphone because I can see how intrusive and absorbing it is," he told us over email. "As a photographer and documenter, all I want to do is observe life. I cannot do that if I am staring into a little screen in my palm the whole time. I wish to be present and connect with people, and that is very difficult if you have half your brain in the digital world."
While his images have gone viral, the reaction to Romero's work has been mixed, from users who are put on the defensive by his message to people who are finally able to admit they're addicted to their devices. Even if his images are polarizing, he's happy to see them generating a conversation (albeit, a virtual one). "What is great is that it has created a real dialogue and made people question whether it is acceptable, and what harm it is causing," Romero says.