The up-close crime snap­per

Briar Dou­glas sees crime scenes from ev­ery an­gle, up close, and in colour. Emma Whit­taker re­ports on life as a po­lice crime scene pho­tog­ra­pher.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

A nor­mal day could see Briar Dou­glas snap­ping shots of vic­tims of as­sault, car crashes, rob­bery scenes, right up to mur­der scenes and post­mortems.

‘‘We pho­to­graph pretty much any­thing you can think of in re­gards to crime and po­lice.

‘‘Some scenes are ab­so­lutely dis­gust­ing re­ally, but I liken it to what any emer­gency worker goes through.

‘‘Any emer­gency nurse is see­ing pos­si­bly even more gore than what I am but when I get to a scene, and there could be a body that has met a very harsh end, it’s like ‘eeeeww’ for a minute and and then work clicks in and it’s more about how I’m go­ing to get this photo in this cir­cum­stance.’’

Mrs Dou­glas moved into the photography sec­tion af­ter three years as a front line po­lice of­fi­cer. That was nine years ago. ‘‘It was just good tim­ing and I never went back.’’

Like most of the team she wasn’t al­ready trained as a pho­tog­ra­pher.

‘‘The pref­er­ence is that you do have an in­ter­est in it.

‘‘If there’s a birth­day, or if we’re go­ing on hol­i­day, I’m al­ways the one that’s known to have a cam­era.’’

But the types of pho­tos she shoots for work are all about doc­u­ment­ing the finer de­tails and build­ing ev­i­dence, rather than art.

‘‘That’s the tricky thing about when we switch into do­ing pub­lic re­la­tions stuff and they want us to go to those fam­ily days and sud­denly you can get all cre­ative.’’

The po­lice photography unit for Auck­land is based in Otahuhu and cov­ers the area from Mercer all the way up to North­land.

Mrs Dou­glas has seen it all in her time.

‘‘I can think of a num­ber of strange pho­tos and sit­u­a­tions, but none that you could print for pub­lic read­ing.

‘‘Peo­ple do aw­ful things to each other, even af­ter nine years it still amazes and dis­ap­points me. That’s prob­a­bly a good thing though.’’

Some of her tough­est days on the job have been when she has had to deal with an­i­mals.

‘‘Peo­ple take the micky about what that says about me, but I think it’s quite nor­mal.’’

Re­cently she at­tended the post­mortem of a dog that had gone miss­ing and turned up back on the owner’s lawn in a mu­ti­lated state.

‘‘It wasn’t up­set­ting as such, it was more a case of if I didn’t have to be here I wouldn’t be. I spent a lot of time look­ing at the ceil­ing in that one.’’

Mrs Dou­glas doesn’t see her­self chang­ing jobs any time soon.

‘‘It sounds cheesy be­cause ev­ery cop in ev­ery other area prob­a­bly says this, but I love the va­ri­ety, es­pe­cially when I’m on the road — that’s my favourite.’’

When teams are ‘‘on the road’’ they pick up their list of jobs in the morn­ing and then of­ten end up dart­ing back and for­ward from one end of the city to the other

‘‘I can semi-plan my day but then it al­ways changes.’’

Photo: EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Full view: Briar Dou­glas is a crime scene pho­tog­ra­pher.

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