Exercise (3): Sarah Pickering-Public Order


Copyright Sarah Pickering

Pickering’s  work in ‘Public Order’ raises questions about facades, what is real and what is not. I could also relate to the issues raised in the course materials about the impact this work has on the imaginations. If whole townscapes exist for th police to practice for riots and emergencies, what do we not know about. there are some profound questions about society, order and control. That said in Pickering interview referenced below, she describes the police being very open and transparent, o the point of being disappointed that she photographed the location empty and was less intreated in making images of the faux riots they were staging.

The initial image in the course materials did look like an early morning street scene or a long exposure image of a street (I have used this technique to make a street appear empty during the day). It is only on closer inspection that something doesn’t look quite right, in particular the fact that all of the windows were uniformly blank. There is also something of a film set look about the image and the second image showing the scene from the ear gives away that this is a facade. This too reminds me of a film set.

How do Pickering’s images make you feel?

At first look that have an authenticity about them but closer inspection reveals something  unsettling about them, particularly as i moved through the various empty and somewhat easy training ground scenes. The images raise questions about why we need such spaces and the fact that the police nee dot train for riot bad unrest. I did wonder how often the police use such a facility and what their expectations is of the frequency of its and civil unrest. Are the police continual un a state of readiness for such events. 

Is Public Order an effective use of documentary is it misleading?

The fact that I am thinking about civil disorder and the role of the police in society while looking at the images says something about the authenticity of the work as informative documentary photography. Although the images focus on a subject that has a degree of ‘fakes’ about it, the underlying theme to me is far from fake, indeed it is unsettling, as stated because it alerts the view about real police activity, which in term says something about the nature of society. In a time of relative calm, it raises the spectre of civil disorder and the police’s need to be prepared for it, in this sense the work shines a light on society, all be it from a somewhat oblique perspective.


Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Colberg, J. (2010) Review-Explosions, Fires and Public Order, Conscientious found at: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2010/03/review_explosions_fires_and_public_order_by_sarah_pickering/

Sarah Pickering on Public Order & Explosion series: Excerpt- Found at: http://vimeo.com/11931505


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