Sarah Pickering – Public Order

Look at some more images from this series on the artist’s website.

How do Pickering’s images make you feel?

When I first saw the images I thought they were crap (I am just being honest here but stick with me!) however I thought the framing of the images was interesting as its how I would have framed the shots myself. I wondered why someone had taken a load of photographs of a film set, I mean why bother, what’s the point? On deeper observation I started to get intrigued by the images, I saw all the surveillance cameras, the grey dreary Orwellian bleakness of what we might become as a society. The concrete jungle I despise. The apocalypse has come. Its all totally subjective, I know.  The images are all devoid of any people (also something I would likely create myself), shot before or after an event.

I liked the image ‘Semi-detached’ where the photographer has shot head on the front of a semi detached property, the frame almost split exactly down the centre but slightly off, on the left the green door to the property is closed whilst the door to the right is open showing what looks like a green field. There are scorch marks from burning on the kerbs and part of the wall. Something here isn’t quite right. It draws me into the image, I want to go through that door! A great shot.

The image ‘River Way (Roadblock)’ shouts riot to me, anarchy on the streets, the 2 old cars indicate a roadblock ahead, there is more surveillance on the left and much further down the street, every corner of the street is covered with surveillance. It is now clear from the building on the left its just a façade and trickery, these are not real houses and this is a stage without any actors.

The photographs would have a whole different feel if there were Police practising for riots in them and that is clearly the point. It works very effectively.

It was harsh of me to say the work is crap, it isn’t but it is how it made me feel initially, it got my back up, which got my attention and that fascinates me.

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

Its not what you would expect and that’s why it works. Sarah Pickering could have filled the images with Police in the frame practising rioting but it was a concious decision to exclude them. It says more by excluding something within the image than including it. As Pickering states in the video clip I watched, the images show:

‘more power’….they are… ‘more evocative than action shots’

I can see now that including the rioting would have distracted from the message the photographer was looking to portray. I think it is an effective use of the documentary style which has challenged my own preconceptions, which can only be a positive thing.


Sarah Pickering website – ‘Public Order’

Sarah Pickering on Public Order and Explosions Series – YouTube


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