Exercise 1.3 – Sarah Pickering’s Public Order (P.37)

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

  • How do Pickering’s images make you feel?
  • Is Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?
Flicks Nightclub, 2004, © Sarah Pickering

We are presented with this image in the course material. At first glance it could be a picture of a street scene shot early in the morning, however, it soon becomes apparent that something is not quite right; the lack of people and vehicles, the traffic lights not working, the windows with curtains seemingly drawn in day light and the strange position of lights in the windows. The notes go on to explain that this is a police training facility and includes the photograph below of the same ‘venue’ but this time it is taken from the rear of the facade.

Behind Flicks, 2004, © Sarah Pickering

How do Pickering’s images make you feel?

Having looked through the images that make up the series Public Order I am left feeling underwhelmed. I think it is always difficult to make an informed judgement about a body of work when looking at fairly low resolution images on a computer screen but my initial impression was that the series was a collection of grey, lifeless images. I did not feel any sense of unease or questioning about why these type of facilities exist so in the end I felt that the work was informative, it provided information that I had not previously been aware of, but also it was not a subject that particularly interested me as I had not previously given any thought to where Emergency Services practice how to deal with the situations they might face.

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

I do not think the series is misleading, some images might give the impression that they are of a real town or village but looking at the series as a whole this it is obvious that this is not the case. In terms of the effectiveness of the series, I think the series is not completely successful. If the objective of the series was to document the facility itself then I feel that the series does not present the complete picture and the mix of replica streets and behind the scenes pictures is a bit uneven. I also think that there may have been an opportunity to make the series more engaging by not only photographing the site where the training takes place but also what happens although I recognise that this might not have been possible due to security restrictions. If, as is possibly implied in the course notes, the objective of the series is to make the viewer feel uneasy and question the need for such facilities and the role of policing in society then I think the series is not effective. It would be impractical for the police to train how to manage civil disorder in a real life setting and so the existence of a is not sinister but rather a practical solution to the problem.


Sarah Pickering. 2018. Sarah Pickering. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.sarahpickering.co.uk/Works/Pulic-Order/workpg-01.html. [Accessed 14 December 2018].

Sarah Pickering: Incident Control | Museum of Contemporary Photography . 2018. Sarah Pickering: Incident Control | Museum of Contemporary Photography . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mocp.org/exhibitions/2010/04/sarah_pickering.php. [Accessed 14 December 2018].

Sarah Pickering – Wikipedia. 2018. Sarah Pickering – Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Pickering. [Accessed 14 December 2018].

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