My new project is called Playground. The Netherlands have several training facilities where members of the Fire Brigade, the Police Force and the Ministry of Defense are trained and prepared for a wide range of possible scenarios. Within the boundaries of these grounds it’s all just practice or ‘play’. Outside of them however, things are a lot more serious. My aim was to capture these facilities and the people who are trained there.
Training facilities like these have a very basic and functional design. Factories and houses have been recreated to make training conditions as realistic as possible, but unlike a real town they are completely devoid of any personal decorations or human touch. This makes for a completely surreal atmosphere like that of a ghost town.
I employed quite a static approach using a large format camera, a tripod and a cherrypicker, to position myself over the terrain. My aim was to get the best possible perspective on ‘the game’ inside a broad view of the training facilities. Light conditions were crucial in all of this, which meant I did not always get the desired result right away and in some instances had to return to the same position several times.
I originally started out photographing at a training facility for industrial fire fighting in Rotterdam. These first images were framed in such a way as to create the illusion of reality. After gaining access to more and more of these types of facilities I gradually started distancing myself from the exercises that were taking place in front of me. I named my project Playground to emphasize the fact that different services get to practice various scenarios in a controlled environment without any real threat to the safety and lives of their personnel.
This project addresses much more than just a few training facilities in The Netherlands. It is about risk-analysis, conformity in groups and my personal view of that hidden world.