Part 1 – Exercise 3 – ‘Public Order’ by Sarah Pickering

The brief for this exercise was to look at the series of images entitled ‘Public Order’ by Sarah Pickering and explain how her images made you feel and also answer the question ‘Is Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?

I felt that the 2 images provided in the course materials were rather nebulous rather than being unnerving or disquieting. Presented alone, they depict an obviously deserted location near a nightclub (a common occurrence during daylight hours) and what appeared to be a boarded up back of a half-dismantled warehouse.

As you look at more of the images, the knowledge about the location grows and you start to piece together what it might be, rather like a jigsaw puzzle. Equally, if you only selected a particular handful of images which only offer up a few minor clues, you could get a sense of a post-apocalyptic UK, a land devoid of humans. For example, taking the following images on their own, you wouldn’t believe that a tube station would have no forms of life buzzing around it, and the alleyway, without evidencing signs of life in the form of rubbish or debris on the ground, could also leave you with an eerie sense of unease.

However, the group of images below, the one on the left being also somewhat ironic with it’s front door also doubling up as its back door, walking straight through the front door into the garden, as well as the couple to the right clearly showing the mock facades of the building walls, give clear indications that this a much less sinister location. As a film set, it’s quite grim, but the two bashed up cars facing each other, give a clear clue that this is some sort of training ground, maybe for the emergency services.

I think that the series as a whole is quite interesting, but it’s not instant information-giving and therefore, doesn’t necessarily easily fit into the documentary classification. Simultaneously I don’t think it deliberately misleads, although the artist could be accused of ‘playing with us’ a little bit. The deliberate use of the overcast skies in every image does cast a bit of a sombre atmosphere over the shots, but to me this just allows the images to feel like part of a series rather than give a real sense of any dark, other worldly undertones. As a set of art photographs, these don’t appeal to me apart from perhaps as a puzzle to unpick.


Pickering, S. Public Order At Accessed 17 September 2016

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