Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Water-Damaged Firemen

Water-damaged Firemen is a ‘found’ (rescued, saved?) archive of vernacular images – 35mm slide-transparencies - of firemen, taken by firemen. The photographs depict the day-to-day life of a fire-fighting crew based at a fire station in Switzerland, over a period of twenty or so years, from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s. The images fall roughly into the following categories: major fires; dramatic rescues; poles descended; ladders extended; towering infernos ascended; road-crashes attended; water fired; various training exercises; new fire trucks; charred remains of rooms and personal belonging; burnt-out buildings; portraits of firemen, smiling. In all there are some 300 drowned transparencies, of which only a handful survive intact.
The entire archive –lives licked by flames - was ruined when a water pipe burst, flooding the basement of the fire station in which they were housed. As the photographs are 35mm slide-transparencies, no prints or negatives exist: these, the originals, are water-damaged beyond repair.
The equivalent: an archive of ‘scorched scuba divers’, rescued from a houseboat fire. Fire-eaten frogmen, toasted coral, burnt fish, skeletal shipwrecks. Fire-damaged frogmen, like water-damaged firemen, must exist - be swimming around out there, somewhere? 

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