CAN Exercise 1.3 Sarah Pickering – Public Order


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

  • How do Pickering’s images make you feel?
  • Is Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?

Public Order is a series produced by Pickering in the early 2000s. They feature Police riot training facilities in the UK. She had the option to include officers going about their training but instead she chose not as she feels that the deserted images are more powerful and evocative (Pickering, 2010).

How do Pickering’s images make me feel?

On initial viewing and without context the images are highly disturbing. Where are the people? What has happened? They invoke highly apocalyptic thoughts for me. They are frightening, unnerving and confusing. On a more general level they seem a depressing rundown presentation of a working class British town.

Once contextualised those initial feelings disappear. We are not witnessing Armageddon. The photographs become more generally interesting. I had no idea such places existed – although I should have realised Police riot training must take place somewhere. The depressing feeling continues though; it seems that riot training only takes place in stereotypical rundown working class towns. The reality is that riots/demonstrations take place in many wealthy parts of the country, the City of London in particular.

Interesting also is that these images are another example of what Paul Seawright describes as Triangulation. That is the triangular relationship between the image itself, the context and the viewer. Once again the viewer is allowed to complete the image with his/her own preconceptions.

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

The question is framed as referring to the series ‘Public Order’ and does not refer to an individual image within the series. As such the viewer has the opportunity to contextualise the individual images.


Pickering, S. (2010). Sarah Pickering in Conversation with Susan Bright. Introduction and Public Order series. Available at: [Accessed 2 Oct. 2019].

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