News Column

Weekend: STARTERS: Big picture Control, by James Rawlings

June 21, 2014



When photographer James Rawlings got a call granting him permission to shoot the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre in Gravesend, he had already given up all hope of the project getting off the ground. Having heard through a friend of a friend in the Met about "a whole town that's created for the sole purpose of riot training", it had taken Rawlings three months to find the right contact details of the officer in charge of the Kent facility. He then spent four months calling the officer twice a week to no avail. Then, suddenly, he got the go-ahead.

Just after the 2011 London riots, the police were wary of Rawlings' interest, but he suspects it was his lack of a political agenda that eventually persuaded them to agree. "I was looking at it from an artistic angle as opposed to journalistic," the photographer says. "I was drawn to the landscapes of the space itself. Plus I was fresh out of university, so my student status made me much less threatening."

Dressed in full riot gear, the officers in training were to separate a mob played by senior officers in civilian clothing in five intersecting streets, complete with facades. "It was quite intense," Rawlings says. "They would really antagonise them and get them riled, as a riot mob would. There was no holding back. They threw a range of projectiles, too - glass bottles, wooden bricks, molotov cocktails. There is no other way of preparing them other than making it as real as possible." To ensure the officers' anonymity, Rawlings had to shoot the scenes in a sweeping way: "No one could be singled out," he says of his project titled Control.

The access furthered Rawling's interest in spaces where conflict is simulated, a theme he had started to explore in his first project, Contrived. "I'd really like to shoot a counter-terror training facility, but the levels of security makes that practically impossible," he says. "But you never know

- I'll keep trying."

Abigail Radnor

Control is part of James Rawlings' ongoing Architecture Of Conflict project, for which shows are planned in late 2014; jamesrawlings.co.uk for full details.


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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