In Photo Essay, A Humanizing Look At Security Guards

This provocative art project challenges the fine line between public and private space.

A guard house is meant to be a symbol of authority, a physical representation that says if you want in, you’ll have to pass by this person whose job it is to keep riff raff like you out.


But behind the lens of Latvian photographer Reinis Hofmanis, the guard house becomes the cage at a zoo. A claustrophobic, emasculating box where a guard is trapped, confused by why Hofmanis–standing in the free and open spaces of public property–would dare gaze upon and record this private space. That moment of tension, absurdity, and even loneliness when the guard registers what’s going on is precisely what Hofmanis has sought to capture in his collection Territory.

“All the dark and cold places that I have selected are not ones where anyone wants to welcome me. These are boundaries of a certain kind which I must overcome when creating a situation that is confrontational and provocative, without a result that can be foreseen,” Hofmanis tells Co.Design. “The guard, in turn, has to leave his guardhouse, which is probably cosy, and go outside, where it is unpleasant. The guard is provoked into doing the things that have been entrusted to him.”

But what exactly the guard has been entrusted to do is the question. In this gray area between public and private space, Hofmanis may not be doing anything illegal, but he’s certainly suspicious. After all, Hofmanis plants himself specifically to excite a scene. If his presence didn’t in some way bother the guard, neither the guard nor the photographer would be doing his job.

“[A guard noticing me] is a brief moment in time, one that can be described as an intermediate situation before the actual event,” Hofmanis says. Sometimes, Hofmanis says, the photo shoot ended with the guard spilling his life story; other times the guard kept a safe distance.

“Once there was an occurrence when the guard came out and threatened to break my camera. My explanations of being in the public space, made no sense. I just left the spot and came back after a few days when there was another guard working.”

See more here.


[Hat tip: NPR]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.