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Images of fire

Craig McNulty
24.5.30.8.
Sat 23.5. - 18:00

curator: Veronika Resslová

This sequence of photos brings together documentary images taken by different photographers to be used for police or insurance investigations, as well as staged photographs made for the training of firefighters. The exhibit also includes several photographs made by the creator of the sequence. The absence of obvious formal connections forces us to look for meaning in the scenes portrayed in the sequence, and speculate as to why it was created, and why these images were chosen. The selection itself, as well as the arrangement, of the images then becomes the most interesting element.
The images were collected for a research project monitoring the psychological reactions to fire. Therefore, the selection criteria did not consider the formal aspects of the images, but rather a respondent’s psychological relationship to the given scene, and his anticipated emotional reactions.
Interpreting the sequence of photographs as an artwork makes inter-genre contrasts more visible and brings to the fore various types of photographic approach. It also reveals unexpected new associations among the images.
The exhibition explores a particular method of applied photography within a psychological research project. The viewer can fill in the original questionnaire and compare their answers with results of the research.
The author of the study obtained five different types of photos from different sources: pictures of flames, pictures of damage caused by fire, pictures of smoke, pictures of fire fighting equipment and activities.
The photos were shown to a group of ten people, who deliberately set fires, and to another group of one hundred people. They were asked to evaluate their emotional engagement with regard to 7 factors while looking at the picture. These factors were how exciting, interesting, enjoyable, relaxing, nice, upsetting and frightening they found it. This subjective evaluation was entered into the statistic analysis, which was represented in the graph showing two factores: engagement (the level of the attraction and excitement) and enjoyment (how relaxing or nice the pictures seemed to them).
The group of ten people, who set the fire deliberately, showed the same level of engagement, but a significantly higher level of enjoyment. These people were also able to recognize in a very short time what the original object was which was destroyed by fire.
Man showed significantly higher level of enjoyment than women.
The study was a part of the research conducted for the PhD. program at the University of East Anglia School of Medicine and Health in 2003. Craig McNulty studied clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry at King´s College in London. He works in Prague and in London.

Images