Cellphone usage is an unavoidable part of contemporary life, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that individuals are engrossed in their phones even when walking outside. Some Chinese and European towns have created “texter sidewalks” solely to alleviate pedestrian traffic congestion. Seeing groups of people with their heads down is an all-too-familiar image if you’re not in one of those carefully created settings.
When illustrator Andrew Rae was weaving his way among the crowds of people who were engrossed in their phones, he had an idea. “I started thinking of phones as small pets or creatures, and people stroking their bellies to keep them happy,” he explains. “I suggested it to my buddy Ruskin while we were out with our two-year-olds one day, and he thought it was a good idea.”
Andrew Rae’s illustration work is inspired by his love of mythical creatures and covers editorial, publishing, commercial, animation, and murals. Rae, on the other hand, called his buddy Ruskin Kyle, a London-based photographer, to execute the Phone Buddies project. Kyle began phase one of Phone Buddies by photographing the phone-obsessed folks he saw on the streets of London. Rae was then expected to sketch over Kyle’s images using the original concept. “The phones were too little in the scene,” Rae explained, “and I couldn’t make it appear like the people were holding the little critters.”
After some thought, Andrew Rae was inspired by an interview with Edward Snowden and the concept of the National Security Agency spying on us through our cellphones. “Instead of replacing the phones, I’d create things or monsters emerging from the phones and staring back at us,” Rae explains. Because the phone screen is like a doorway where the actual world and the digital world connect, the different styles of the image and drawing would make sense together.” Rae quickly drew and colored a variety of fanciful monsters that appeared on people’s smartphone screens. Rae purposefully built the monsters to hide their faces in order to keep the subject of the shot unknown.
As a result, viewers are physically sucked into the world of their telephones, entirely ignorant of their surroundings.
Phone Buddies is a visual joy thanks to Andrew Rae’s wacky graphics, but it’s also a grim commentary on technology in our culture.
Andrew Rae, a London-based artist, creates fascinating monsters that emerge from people’s mobile displays.