Fire Scene (2007) C-type digital prints each 96 x120cm
Fire Scene (and its companion piece, Incident) were produced whilst Artist in Residence at the UK Fire Service College from 2006-7. Fire Scene is a series of ten colour photographs shot at the doorways of set dressed shipping containers as the contents are beginning to be consumed by fire. Each room in the Fire Scene series is filled with narrative – scenes of disturbance, violence or carelessness and clues as to the identity of a perpetrator or victim. The inhabitants appear to have escaped miraculously, but their material possessions are about to be destroyed.
The representation of class, structural inequality and transgression are recurring themes in my practice. Public institutions are playing out socially coded narratives when preparing for worst case scenarios, where the most disadvantaged in society are usually victims and perpetrators. Dealing with these themes at the time of shooting, the Fire Scene series holds acute resonances in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster where embedded power structures and inequalities run deep. The causes of fires planned by forensic trainers have ‘othering’ narratives as played out in British soap opera plots; deviant behaviour, glue sniffing kids, absent mothers, perverts and poverty. The trainees never see the fires, only the aftermath as they pick through ashes looking for required evidence.
The Fire Scene photographs are shot as the flames take hold giving a peculiar sense of inertia, tragedy and spectacle. Each photograph suspends a moment of an event as it unfolds, presenting a scene that is rarely witnessed. By capturing the fires, every image is poised between completeness and ruin and set within a continued cycle of construction and destruction. These documentary photographs are institutional representations of the real world, a fictitious reality.