One Simple Image Sums Up Why People Don't Even Try To Be Neighbourly Anymore

It highlights humans in the 'wild' doing what they do best: staring at their smartphones!

Cover image via Brian Yen/NatGeo

The winners of the National Geographic's annual photography contest have been announced after the magazine received more than 9,200 entries from over 150 countries. The winning picture, titled A Node Glows in the Dark, was taken by Brian Yen in Ocean Park, Hong Kong. It's both an enlightening and disappointing observation on the issue of tech addiction in our society today.

In an interview with the magazine about his winning shot, Yen talks about what made him capture the shot. Here's what he said:

The picture was taken inside a train ride at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. The train ride only lasts about five minutes; during the ride, the lights dim, and the overhead monitors display various undersea animations.

It was at the end of a long father-daughter day of fun at the park. It was very hot and humid. When the train’s door opened with a rush of cold air, everyone piled in as tightly as possible. I spotted this woman using her smartphone while in line, and she continued to use it throughout the ride. But it was when the lights dimmed that she really stood out—no one else was using their device.

I’ve long made observations about how people’s social behavior has changed with the advent of mobile communication. I’ve taken many other images of people finger-skating on their phones. So in the back of my mind, I’ve been hunting for visuals to express this profound change in our civilization.

"I feel a certain contradiction when I look at the picture."

On the one hand, I feel the liberating gift of technology.

On the other hand, I feel people don’t even try to be neighbourly anymore, because they don’t have to.

The picture is also a reflective one. I also feel a bit guilty, more and more, that I’m just like that lady in the middle of the train, lost in her own world.

Here's the winning picture, titled A Node Glows in the Dark

Image via Brian Yen

"In the last ten years, mobile data, smartphones and social networks have forever changed our existence."

"Although this woman stood at the center of a jam-packed train, the warm glow from her phone told the strangers around her that she wasn't really there. She managed to slip away from "here" for a short moment; she's a node flickering on the social web, roaming the Earth, free as a butterfly."

"Our existence is no longer stuck to the physical here; we're free to run away, and run we will."

As part of the award, Yen has won USD10,000 and a trip to the National Geographic headquarters for an exclusive photography seminar. This behind-the-scenes video offers a glimpse into how the judges decided on the winning photos. Watch:

What do you think about Brian's perspective? Comment below to let us know your views or write to us at [email protected]

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