A fire photographer on fireground photography
Yes you sitting behind your desk picking apart everything that is wrong in a photo or video from the fireground. This isn’t an attack against you. You guys are like the stubborn fires that just won’t go away after being beaten back with water. You want to rage away at the keyboard, which is fine, but please bring a solution to the table; how can a department do something better?
This letter is so that you can open your mind about the perspective of a photo and video. A photographer breaks specific sections of the fireground incident. The moments before and after are forever a mystery because you don’t know one hundred percent what happened at the scene; you just see a photo. The only people that would know are the photographer and firefighters on scene.
A photo is captured in fractions of seconds, 1/8000 for example. A lot can change on the fireground in 1/8000 of a second. 1/8000 of a second can keep no man safe from the rapidly changing fireground. The photographer is there for a variety of reasons. He wants to show the men and women of his department working. He wants to photograph their tactics, whether right or wrong, by showcasing them in a way they can make improvements on their craft. The photographer’s role is to capture the fireground to the best of their ability. No department is perfect and neither are armchair quarterbacks’ tackling skills while throwing shots at other departments and the photographer’s work.
Photographers, I included, and firefighters make mistakes. With photography the mistake would be known as an out of focus photo. A firefighter’s life could potentially hang in the balance because someone saw a photo of the wrong way to bail out of a window. Photography calls for nothing but memory in fractions of moment.
In art school we had critiques, and I learned there was a difference between being critical and critiquing someone’s work. Photography, just like firefighting, isn’t mistake free.
Lloyd Mitchell is a freelance photographer whose photos of firefighters at work began as a change of pace. “I started taking photography classes at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at the age of 15. The camp counselor thought I was good. The rest is history. I have worked with my community newspaper in Brooklyn for the last two summers. During the summer of my sophomore year, I wanted to work on a project different from things I had worked on during the school year. So I started to photograph firefighters. I would take portraits of them after jobs. I would drop the photos off to them. I didn’t expect the project to last two more summers.” “The project has been of fun. I’ve met a lot of amazing and down to earth people. My purpose of the project was I want people to understand what they go through on a daily tour. I have more of an artistic feeling to my images. I want my photos to tell an overall story. I don’t feel scared behind the lens. These people aren’t scared to run into a burning building.” You can follow Lloyd’s work here and at his photography website.