Exercise: Sarah Pickering

At the beginning of the series the images are convincing as scenes of urban life. The streets are realistic if grey and monotonous from the same breeze -block construction. As you go through the series you begin to wonder – why are there no people/animals/plants or trees or indeed any sign of life whatsoever.
As you progress through the series the sense of artifice increases until you reach the High Street series when you begin to see that the buildings are merely facades, there is no depth, no inside to them.
The picture is completed by the two images of ‘Flicks Night Club’. The first being an initially convincing view of a street corner with the night club opposite the junction. The second image is of the rear of the scene and shows it as a constructed reality.
These photographs took me on a journey from believing that I was seeing a portrayal of grim urban life to a questioning of what is real and what is not.
They are images of police training grounds and this then colours how you view the scene. I don’t look at them as a reality but as an imagined reality, one constructed to train police in how to deal with street violence and disorder. This then made me feel very uncomfortable as to why this is needed – could I get caught up unwittingly in something like that?
I think that Public Order is a highly effective use of documentary, it is leading the viewer through a range of images and stimulating a discussion/decision on what is being seen. But more than that it stirs debate on the nature of civil society and what it depends on for the maintenance of order.
You could cause a debate on this with photos of rioting, street disturbances etc. – yet these would be more emotive and ‘editorial’ in the words of Paul Seawright. These images give their meaning up slowly and stimulate a greater questioning of society generally rather than perhaps the causes or details of a particular incident.