Dining Room, 2008/2010
Archival inkjet print
10 x 12.5 inches on 12 x 14.5 inch paper
Signed Edition of 50
(British, b. 1972)
Sarah Pickering’s photographs disturb our sense of security and illuminate the ways in which we cope with traumatic events that are beyond our control. Her pictures depict environments and events crafted specifically for simulated training to prepare police officers, firefighters, and soldiers for calamities ranging from fire and civil unrest to terrorism and war. By exposing the absurdity and controlled nature of these environments, Pickering’s images reveal our predilection to deflect fear by trying to anticipate and plan for it—and our tendency to create a story to help us process it.
Images from Pickering’s Incident series are shot at the Fire Service College, but in facilities designed less for forensic analysis than for logistical and tactical training. Sparse rooms built of concrete and metal contain simple forms such as a steel framed bed, filing cabinets, chairs, and human-shaped dummies made to withstand fire for future use. The only evidence of human presence is seen in finger and foot-prints in the ash, traces of life that activate these charred spaces. Pickering takes inspiration from the grayness of the scene by pushing the contrast of her matte silver gelatin pictures to emphasize the expressive markings and their relationship to drawing.
Sarah Pickering is a London based, British photographer who graduated from the Royal College of Art with a MA in Photography in 2005. She has been the recipient of several awards including the Photographers Gallery Graduate Award and a Jerwood Award in 2005. Sarah has exhibited internationally and in the UK where her work was part of How We Are: Photographing Britain, at Tate Britain, and is currently on show in the photography gallery of the V&A museum. Her work is featured in many publications including the Phaidon anthology on contemporary photography, Vitamin Ph, and the catalog and exhibition, Manipulating Reality, (Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence).