Skip to content

Phil Maxwell’s Mobile Phone Zombies

October 1, 2014
by the gentle author

“I photographed people with mobile phones since they first arrived on Brick Lane in the eighties,” Contributing Photographer Phil Maxwell admitted to me, “What’s happened is that those people on the phone have become separated from the dynamic life of the street, inhabiting their own digital bubble. It’s a change that’s crept up and now you can no longer tell who’s deranged, when everyone is talking to themselves.”

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell


You may also like to take a look at

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

Phil Maxwell’s Kids On The Street

Phil Maxwell’s East End Cyclists

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Phil Maxwell & Sandra Esqulant

Phil Maxwell’s Whitechapel Market

12 Responses leave one →
  1. October 1, 2014

    Yes, Phil Maxwell is a fine observer of his environment: this trend is absolutely insane
    and people become more and more lonely, although they have got 2000 facebook friends…

    Love & Peace

  2. October 1, 2014

    Yes, Phil Maxwell is a fine observer of his environment: this trend is absolutely insane and people become more and more lonely, although they have got 2000 facebook friends…

    Love & Peace

  3. SBW permalink
    October 1, 2014

    Thought-provoking images. The universal visual (not just in Brick Lane but throughout the world where they are used) is one of eyes down rather than looking out. Its a pity. We must remember that the mobile phone can be useful in emergency and for many things. Question is – do they control us? Or are we in charge. We need to look out, and to reach out, to life around us – as the GA shows us over and over. Thank you.

  4. Cornish Cockney permalink
    October 1, 2014

    When the zombie apocalypse happens, those of us without smart phones, and therefore need to remember directions, tube maps, phone numbers etc in our heads, will be the survivors! 😀

  5. Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) permalink
    October 1, 2014

    the isolation of #self :-(((

  6. October 1, 2014

    Great pictures, and a sad trend that people all live in their own little bubbles and miss what is going on around them. It seems to be the same all over the world. Valerie

  7. October 1, 2014

    Love that turn of phrase – ‘mobile phone zombies’ ! 😉

  8. October 1, 2014

    “mobile phone zombies” or “Everyday Robots” (nods to Damon Albarn)

  9. Pauline Taylor permalink
    October 1, 2014

    The bad manners attached to this trend is what gets me. An otherwise normal, or so it seemed at first, young American girl, who came into my shop yesterday, answered her mobile phone when it rang and wandered around with it clamped to her ear totally ignoring me. One sided conversations like this are very distracting when you are trying to work, as I was, but I suspect that they would be offended if someone like me complained. On the plus side I have noticed that very few people walking up and down the hill outside my shop are using a mobile phone these days whereas, not long ago, every other person had one clamped to their ear. Perhaps the novelty is wearing off or they have realised just how much it costs. One can but hope!!

  10. Ros permalink
    October 1, 2014

    These are excellent photos and really and truly only a proportion of the people attached to their mobiles look zombified – some are very expressive and clearly engaged with the people they’re speaking to. Whether that’s a substitute for being engaged with the life of the street or whether they still are, or never were, I can’t tell. I wonder what the market traders think? Agree with Pauline above that people who talk through or over people serving them in shops or public places are a very poor show!

  11. Thomas Sherrard permalink
    April 24, 2016

    The beautiful film of Sandra’s life was a real gift, I felt I knew her almost as her friends know her.
    It was heartwarming. Thank you so much.

  12. Pam permalink
    June 15, 2017

    Sat waiting for a bus for only twenty minutes. During this time I saw many people walk out into traffic whilst staring at their phones. Three were very close calls with drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid crushing them.
    This trend has isolated people young and old. No one talks in coffee shops any longer, they stare into their phone texting invisible people. All the lonely people, we know now where they do come from.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS