Paul Shambroom: Security

In the course of their work, scientists often wear items of protective clothing: goggles, lab coats, gloves of latex or plastic. Outside of laboratories and facing very different challenges, hazmat suits are worn by those whose jobs insert them into extreme situations and direct contact with hazardous materials, contaminants, and conditions. In his Security series, images made between 2004 and 2007, Paul Shambroom–known for work that explores power, safety, and fear–travelled to simulated environments known as Terror Town, New Mexico and Disaster City in Texas to photograph both facilities and emergency workers in training to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks. The portraits feature people in bulky, hi-tech gear designed to keep them safe from heat, bio-chemical agents, explosives, and radiation. Simultaneously documentary and surreal, the photographs are full of contradictions. They are still images that speak to potentially out-of-control situations, portraits with the calmness of 18th century paintings that speak to the science and technology of 21st century threats and prevention.