Amy Becker, Ladders, 2017, Archival pigment print, 10 x 7 ½ inches
The new millennium’s rapid embrace of cell phones has dramatically diminished the need for working payphones. For some, payphones are linked to collective memories. Think of Clark Kent rushing to the nearest phone booth, emerging as Superman. Or during the Eisenhower era, when college students used to cram themselves into phone booths to see who could stuff the most people inside.
Those days are over. Yet many payphones remain standing, scattered throughout the landscape—abandoned, beaten, and disfigured. Today, with Amy Becker’s ongoing project Dead Ringers: Portraits of Abandoned Payphones, she set aside her usual cameras. Instead, she uses her iPhone camera as the ironic tool to create images of these remnants, of the technology it replaced. Then she prints the photos in the same ratio as the iPhone capture.
For Becker, the world has turned into a scavenger hunt to discover payphones. She often finds them hidden in plain sight. Others stripped down to a shell of their former selves, reveal a suggestion of sculpture in metal and plastic. At times, the phones’ anthropomorphic shapes echo portraits where comic and tragic personalities coexist.
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. What persists is the need to communicate, anyplace, for any reason, or for no reason at all.
Amy Becker is a Newark, New Jersey-based photographer. Her work explores visual stories that arise from the random interaction and juxtapositions of people, everyday found objects, and moments within those environments. Becker has exhibited in nationally recognized fine art photography galleries and exhibition spaces, including the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO, and Soho Photo Gallery in NYC. As part of the 2020–2021 New Jersey Emerging Artists Series, Becker received a solo exhibition at Monmouth Museum in Middletown, NJ. Recently, she had a two-person show at the Garage Gallery in Beacon, NY, and is currently exhibiting at Gallery Aferro in Newark and the Montclair Art Museum. She was recently awarded a City of Newark 2022 Creative Catalyst Fund. In 2021, she received a fellowship for photography from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, Lenscratch, and Fraction Magazine, as well as a recent cover story for Chronogram Magazine. Her formal education includes coursework at the International Center of Photography and numerous workshops. A graduate of Boston University’s School of Communications, she enjoyed a career as a copywriter before pursuing photography. For more information, visit the artist’s website at amybecker.com