#de_VICE Series Picked Up By CNN

February 29, 2012 | Editorial Photography News

CNN’s photos blog just picked up my #de_VICE series and ran it today. You can check it out here. It’s a good feeling to see a personal project see the light of day outside of my own feed. Big thanks to Jeremy Cowart for introducing my project to photo editor Elizabeth Johnson at CNN.

I started this project last year about people lost in their devices. It started on a trip to New York right after I bought the Fuji x100 camera. I was walking the streets shooting your garden variety street stuff and took a photo of a girl engrossed in her phone. She was wearing a white dress and standing by a black wall. I liked the composition so I snapped off a frame.

I turned from her to see another person lost in their phone and took a shot of them. I turned once more to see another person on their phone. In a movie the camera would pan out and I would be standing on a street corner surrounded by people staring into their phone screens.

I photographed a few more people for a few more blocks. Then a few more. I decided that I’d spend the day photographing people staring at their phone. Then I spent the next day doing it. Then it became a thing I was constantly looking for.


I have found that we get so focused on the screen in front of us we’re oblivious to the world going on around us. Instead of shooting this project with a 200mm lens from across the street, I like the 23mm lens on the Fuji because it forces me to be close to the subjects I’m photographing and 9 times out of 10 I can be a few feet from someone on their phone and they never knew I took their photo.



As I work this project I’m looking for layers of devices. It’s really not difficult to find which seems to be becoming a disturbing trend. They’re everywhere and we’re stuck to them and oblivious to everything around us.





This is one of my favorites of the series so far…



You can see more from this series on the CNN blog and in my 500px feed. Thanks for looking! Are you looking on your device? :)




  • Mark said on February 29, 2012

    That last one is AWESOME.

  • sheri j said on February 29, 2012

    this is as good project, when my clients are getting ready like say for their wedding if they happen to be checking out stuff on their phone, I ALWAYS take a shot of that, it’s a part of life these days :)

  • Jen Bertrand said on February 29, 2012

    Well done, and well deserved. Inspired.

  • Mikee said on February 29, 2012

    Zack, you’re so cool. I can’t wait for your thoughts on the x-pro1 but really, I can’t wait till my pre-order ships!

  • Alethea said on February 29, 2012

    Congrats! I love this. The last photo is also my favorite. It speaks volumes. I notice this everywhere too and am often guilty myself. I recently posted a few photos of my daughter because everywhere we go she is off to the side somewhere on her phone! Maybe I need to work on my parenting :) I always love your images, and this project is one of my favorites.

  • IPBran said on February 29, 2012

    Congrats…I wonder if your subjects know they are on CNN? :-)

  • brett maxwell said on February 29, 2012

    congrats! sucks that CNN didn’t give you a link that Google can read though, but I’m guessing SEO isn’t a big part of your business model anyway.

  • javier said on February 29, 2012

    Excelente Zack!, FELICITACIONES!!!

  • Nitpicky said on February 29, 2012

    awesome shots but it should be noted that the old dude is using a Garmin GPS….but still a device!
    great post.

  • Mike Kovaliv said on February 29, 2012

    Zack, great to see this kind of exposure for you. You certainly deserve it for a very relevant project that’s extremely well done. Congrats! Oh, and I hope you’re going to by Jeremy dinner!

  • Travis;-P said on February 29, 2012

    Congrats Zack! Well deserved recognition…

  • Raman Singh said on February 29, 2012

    WOW zack! This is amazing. congrats on this the fact that you took these on your x100 just proves that gear is not everything. Brilliant!.

  • Andy said on February 29, 2012

    I still don’t have a smartphone…

  • Kathy Porupski said on February 29, 2012

    As always Zack I love your projects…your interest and direction of where your evolving creative brain and eye takes you these days is so refreshing from the popular main stream of photography we see so much of today. Thanks for sharing with us and congratulations on being picked up for a brilliant set of captures of our now accepted and everyday life!

  • Paul B said on March 1, 2012

    I’m not convinced we’re stuck to the devices themselves, more to the people/content it allows us constantly access to (for better or for worse).

    My smartphone has been a revolution for constant reading, learning, listening, talking and allowing me to work away from the confines of my cubicle.

    Nice set of photos however they’d CLEARLY be better on an X pro 1 😉

  • Jamie B said on March 1, 2012

    Love these. Congrats on the exposure. Well deserved!

  • Sissel said on March 1, 2012

    Beautiful series. The composition in the last shot, not to mention the commentary, could not be improved at all. So cool to be recognized on this level. And well deserved I believe. Congrats!

  • Javi said on March 1, 2012

    Great work! This has been one of the best set of images I have seen in a long while.

  • steve said on March 1, 2012

    I stumbled across this at work and was stoked to find out it was your work. Congratulations Zack.

  • Alex Atienza said on March 1, 2012

    Where I came from, it’s more difficult to see people like these. Snatchers are all around and displaying your smartphone in the streets or public transports makes you an easy target.

  • Michelle Feeney said on March 1, 2012

    I loved this project and really enjoyed following you as you were adding them to your instagram feed. Soo excited for you. Congrats!

  • Justin Gill said on March 1, 2012

    Very awesome Zack!!

    Here’s a VERY related article on Vincent Laforet’s blog, have you read it?

    Devices are only going to get more and more addicting…

  • Paris said on March 1, 2012

    Well done! Excellent project implementation!

  • Luke Arms said on March 1, 2012


    SO well-deserved. Love this series.

  • Eemeli said on March 1, 2012

    The best ideas for photo sets may seem obvious for the viewer, but then why haven’t we seen them before? Brilliant work; these images really communicate something about ourselves and our world today.

    I think this tweet sums it up quite nicely:
    “My new definition of cool: When I’m out with you, I never see your phone, ever.”

  • Elleni Toumpas said on March 1, 2012

    Damn you Mr Arias! I started a project shooting people on their phones during live music gigs. I hadnt oublished it yet though. Beaten to the punch! Nice work as always.

  • Jean Labelle said on March 1, 2012

    That’s fantastic Zack! Congrats!

  • JB said on March 1, 2012

    Zack, is it safe to assume all of the images in this project are x100 images? I see you say it started when you got the camera. Just curious. The project is tremendous. Love the series.

  • Zack said on March 1, 2012

    @JB – Yep. All x100.

  • Ian Spiers said on March 1, 2012

    I love this series, Zack! Congratulations!

  • Collin Atnip said on March 1, 2012

    Congrats Zack! It is cool to see life looked at differently!

  • PsiModuloQuadro said on March 1, 2012

    phone-based life well represented by amazing shots as usually! I’m always amazed by your technique!

  • Jeff Cruz said on March 1, 2012

    Great work Zack! Talent and creativity like yours deserves the spotlight! And they say there’s no such thing as a new idea anymore. This disproves that! Glad to know you!

  • Michael Montalto said on March 1, 2012

    Congratulations Zack. Big ups for your work my man. -mM

  • Ryan Bruce said on March 2, 2012

    Having followed your work for a couple of years and being a chronic CNN.com checker, I briefly thought someone was ripping you off. However, your comments in the story, about the unhappy looks on people’s faces, made me wonder if you have been able to capture that distinct, soft smile that comes across a person’s face when they receive a text message from someone they care about. The emotional intimacy that they are sharing with their phone has always been visually arresting to me.

  • Josh said on March 2, 2012

    You’d probably like a series by Seymour Templar called Social Lights. Smart phones are definitely becoming an interesting source of inspiration for photography. Check out his series here – http://www.amusingplanet.com/2011/12/social-lights-by-seymour-templar.html

    And congrats on the CNN feature, that is awesome!

  • Andreas said on March 2, 2012

    Was just about to comment “And I’m reading this on my phone”, but you beat me to the punch Zack by your finishing line :)

    This project has a lot of interesting photos!

  • nate parker said on March 2, 2012

    Damn that was good! I really I love your, all of it, but especially your street stuff- freekin good! Thank you man- N.

  • davorm said on March 2, 2012

    Congrats Zack! And yes, I’m guilty, reading this on my phone :-)

  • Nick Wisda said on March 3, 2012

    The last one is awesome but makes me sad

  • Daf said on March 5, 2012

    Ha – so obvious and simple a project yet as others have said – maybe so much so that other’s haven’t bothered to do it.

    Out of curiosity – would a pro expect to get some form of compensation from CNN for using it other than publicity ?
    Just curious really as the topic of personal work has come up in various sources recently inc various blogs + UK Pro photographer mag. I’m not a pro but maybe one day.

  • Zack said on March 6, 2012

    @Daf – I am getting paid a typical editorial day rate from CNN for them running my project. So, that’s nice.


  • Noel said on March 6, 2012

    Funny thing, I saw this and I failed to see who the photographer was and I said to myself “Zack Arias already did this.”

  • jamesd3rd said on March 6, 2012


    I made a comment on my Facebook wall a couple months ago related to our society being so engrossed in our mobile devices. Because we spend so much time looking down at our devices while we sit, stand and walk, we will eventually lose the ability to lift our heads. Imagine as we evolve that mankind will permanently be looking at the ground. We won’t be able to drive, pilot planes, look up at the sky etc. I wonder if there is an ailment similar to Carpal Tunnel related to constantly looking down at mobile devices?

  • Ray said on March 8, 2012

    Cool that you were recognized. I’ve seen a couple of other people do similar projects. I’ve never turned it into a project but you could ALMOST call any street photography “device photography” now because that’s what people on the street are DOING these days. I do a lot of street photography and have to try to get shots of people doing something ELSE. I have plenty of device shots, but thy’re almost like shooting fish in a barrel – the challenge is becoming the non-device shots! Nonetheless, yours are, as always, several cuts above the norm!

  • Paul said on April 13, 2012

    First, great article and shots. I am an experienced photographer and having trouble determining where the focus point is on this camera. It is driving me nuts. When I review the files on the camera the focus point seems to NOT be where I intend for it to be. I am depressing the shutter half way and recomposing – does this change the focus point?

  • Zack said on April 13, 2012

    @paul – That should not change the focus point. Maybe make the focus area smaller.


  • chris said on September 4, 2012

    Are you shooting in standard film mode? Do you use any of the x100’s other modes, or ever shoot in B&W mode?
    These shots have a great tone, curious if it’s all post..

  • Zack said on September 19, 2012

    @Chris – I shoot in standard and do my conversions later.


  • ivan mendez said on December 4, 2012


    inspiring !!!!

    hello from the caribbean

    ivan mendez

  • Just Sage said on April 8, 2013

    I’ve been working on a series of jokes that pertain to this subject via Facebook and Twitter, their context say things like “It’s a beautiful day to go outside and stare at your phone.” or “Today is a great time to go to the art museum and stare at your phone.” and so on. Now I’ve been converting these humorist pokes into memes because it seems so fitting.

    Love what you have going on and look forward to seeing more. I’d say a collection of these will make a great coffee table book if people will only quit staring at their phones to enjoy it.

  • durgesh nandini said on December 8, 2013

    well deserved recognition zack n wonderful project describing social behavior of us/people confined to screen only , least bothered what is happenening nearby.

  • Ken said on December 10, 2013

    ZACK~~~This rocks beyond description~~~!!! I particularly love how quickly and smoothly you were able to begin increasing the number of screening individuals per shot as well as the total anonymity you retained….they remained 199% involved in-/-focused on their screen ! Composition couldn’t be better either ~~~~~~GO GET EM & THANK YOU FOR SHARING VERY INSPIRING

  • Zhu Ming said on March 3, 2014

    This set of photos is so telling, so true. Sad thing is, there’s nothing much we can do to stop this trend from happening. Thanks!

  • Nathaniel Martinez said on October 30, 2014

    Wow. This is a super cool project. It’s amazing the most of the people didn’t realize their picture was being taken.

  • christian davis said on October 30, 2014

    this made me realize how often I am on my phone and how angry the old lady looks when the old man his on his phone

  • Ifeoluwa Korede said on November 1, 2014

    This is a very nice project. It’s awesome. I believe majority of us finds outself in this postion very often while we go about our day.. If no one would admit that, well I will. This is me.. But really, i’ve used this medium as a tool to educate myself. I surf to keep myself updated, to be informed. Majority of the youths does this otherwise, and i feel it’s a very very bad omen. My question for you Zack is- whats your reason for documenting this series? I’m looking foward to addressing the positive side and advantages while keeping your phone very close is a very great advantage to mankind.

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