From Fire to Photography

Posted on October 5, 2012

Warren Frey talks about using photography to share the work of fire-fighters.

Looking back now, graphic design may have been the easier choice. I laugh about how naïve I was; becoming a firefighter was incredibly difficult to get into and it still is. Shift work is also very draining and definitely not for everyone, but at the time I did absolutely everything I could to increase my chances. I made some significant changes to my diet and I trained to be as fit as I could possibly be in order to pass the stringent fitness and physical aptitude tests. I also did every First Aid and Emergency Service related course available at the time. Finally, after four years of trying I was successful. During that time, I never doubted that I wouldn’t get there, but at times I was concerned about the limited positions and how long success could take. My friends were studying for their future careers, but I was still working in a surf shop. Fortunately though, when I started my new job as a firefighter it was about the same time that my friends graduated from university. It had been a hard journey, but on the way I had learnt some important lessons in self-belief and determination.
For me, creativity had been sidelined, but it was never really far away — it just needed awakening. As a firefighter you see some amazing things and during the last 17 years I have worked around some of the most significant events in other peoples lives. Every shift is different. We may have to crawl through a house full of thick black smoke and in total darkness until we turn a corner to find bright orange flames rolling across the ceiling of a room fully engulfed in fire. Sometimes we are witness to some remarkable instances of survival. It never ceases to amaze me how we can arrive at the most destructive road crash to find the occupant out of the vehicle and walking around or even people who have survived after crashing a truck through a building. One day I discussed with my work colleagues about the lack of images of our life as firefighters and of the things we see and do.
I purchased a camera and began bringing it to work.

Read more of Warren’s fascinating journey and see his amazing photography in Overcoat Issue Three: Dreams.

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