In an attempt to realistically imagine and control a possible future, pyrotechnics are used by the police and the military, to create a sense of drama and tension in training exercises. My photographs of the explosions in this series are taken at test sites in the English countryside where the bursts of light, flames, sparks and smoke sit incongruously in the rural environment. With names like Artillery, Shellburst and Napalm these products evoke violent and destructive events – scenes from war and conflict – or dramatic scenes from films and re-enactments in war documentaries. I am interested in identifying where exactly our imaginative references lie. Witnesses to extreme events describe to news reporters that what they saw was a ‘like a film’, documentaries often use re-construction to help illustrate the reality of their subject, and a new breed of infotainment programs use CGI and special effects to reveal to the viewer an imminent disaster.
Through the process of cataloguing the explosions and simultaneously extracting them from purpose the photographs in my series permanently suspend the explosions in a tranquil and contemplative moment. The image of a past event hovers between ‘then’, ‘now’ and ‘what might be’; what could be a revelatory and decisive moment is confounded.
My work explores the idea of imagined threat and response, and looks at fear and planning for the unexpected, merging fact and fiction, fantasy and reality. The images are a representation of society’s coping mechanisms, which are often happening out of the public arena. By using photography to record a simulated or imagined scene I am creating a document that is already a departure from reality.
My previous body of work, ‘Public Order’ documented the ambiguous urban landscape of the UK’s Metropolitan Police Public Order Training Centre, an unreal constructed world of civic intransigence and imagined threat. The Explosions series further develops this investigation into the crux of reality and it’s simulation.