Portraits of abandoned payphones

The new millennium’s rapid embrace of cell phones has dramatically diminished the need for working payphones. For many, payphones are linked to collective memories. Think of Clark Kent rushing to the nearest phone booth, emerging as Superman ready to save Lois Lane. During the Eisenhower era, college students crammed themselves into phone booths. Personally, I was raised to be certain to have the correct coins for an emergency phone call.

Those days are over. Yet many payphones remain standing, scattered throughout the landscape—abandoned, beaten, and disfigured. Today, with my iPhone camera, I seek out these phones with the very invention that has rendered them into unwanted relics.

For me, the world has turned into a perpetual scavenger hunt to discover payphones in familiar or new settings. I often find payphones hidden in plain sight. Others, stripped down to a shell of their former selves, reveal a vague suggestion of sculpture in metal and plastic. At times, the phones’ anthropomorphic shapes echo portraits where comic and tragic personalities coexist. Admittedly, when I do find a rare working phone, I’m disappointed.

Payphones represent one path to human connection. Dead Ringers depicts the remains of those machines and the environments in which they exist. Today, cell phones deliver multiple ways to reach out and touch someone, including stand- alone images and videos, texts, social media platforms, even unique ring tones. What persists is the need to communicate, anyplace, for any reason, or for no reason at all.