A photograph that made me think McLean Virginia December 1978 Joel Sternfeld

When I first saw this image it automatically made me question what is happening with many questions needing answered such as why is the building on fire? Who smashed the pumpkins? And why has the fireman taken this moment to buy a pumpkin? Is this fireman as reckless as the image is letting you believe?

The photograph is using the laws of thirds to help tell the story. The pumpkins smashed in the foreground, the fireman and farm shop in the midground with the building in flames in the background. The autumnal colours fill the image with the flames complimenting the pumpkins and the fireman’s suit.

With a title that is just a date and time there isn’t any prior information, this photograph makes me question if this scene was set up or was this a real life situation.

With a little bit of research I discovered this was a training exercise the fire service were doing. Joel Sternfeld came across this scene during his travels, he took this shot capturing a fireman on his break. To me this photograph is a great example of how an image can manipulate the viewer and twists a simple story into something new.

Joe Clare

L1 Photography, University of the West of England



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