It isn’t every day when you get the chance to walk down memory lane. Andy Anderson shot a campaign for 3M Scott Fire & Safety, highlighting members of the International Women in Fire Association (WIF), and it brought back the nostalgia of his firefighting roots. We fired some questions his way, wondering about the background on this project. Here is what he had to say.
HER: Tell us about working with Broadhead Co for 3M Scott Fire & Safety. How did you get involved, and how did the International Women in Fire Association (WIF) become the focus of the campaign?
AA: Walt Burns and I have had a very long friendship that goes back decades. The two of us are always looking for meaningful projects that will benefit our society. He knew I was a USAF Crash Rescue Firefighter for 20 years. When WIF reached out to Broadhead in Minneapolis about branding, he immediately contacted me because of my history as a firefighter. I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this incredible campaign. I also got to wear turnouts that I had not donned in 19 years.
HER: Given your service as a firefighter in the USAF, did this shoot bring back memories? Did your previous experience help you on location, in using firefighting terminology, or knowing what is and isn’t possible? Can you tell us about any stories in that regard from the shoot?
AA: It brought back many fond memories. Out of a 20-year career as a firefighter, I lived half that time in a firehouse. I loved my job, and I was saddened when I retired at the age of 39. I cried like a baby when I had my last roll call. The fire service and the military instills qualities that will travel with you for the remainder of your life — being responsible, teamwork, safety concerns on set, and discipline. Complaining is never an option. Fire chief would always say, “I know we have a problem, give me a solution,” which has stuck with me. As far as situations, there are many. I have shut down sets because of safety concerns. Safety is of the utmost concern, and no photo is more important than your crew’s well-being. I have fired some crew members because of their apathy. I will not stand for it.
HER: The Women In Fire campaign isn’t your first project with Broadhead Co., having also worked with them on The Meth Project. What do you think is the secret sauce to your collaboration?
AA: The secret sauce is the relationships and my past performance on many projects. Also, my enthusiasm was palpable.
HER: You’ve shared that curiosity drives your photography. We’ve seen your previous imagery of Dangerous Work for AARP. It seems that the Women in Fire campaign was a perfect fit for you, one that could continue to satisfy your curiosity. This latest project highlights the tough work of female firefighters. What is the allure for you in chronicling struggle?
AA: Women have been in the fire service for decades, and I was excited to help tell their role in modern firefighting — this message was long overdue.
HER: Moving quickly and capturing the unposed is something that excites you in projects. Can you share how you were able to avoid danger but still get specific shots?
AA: I have been afraid of fire. The fire service dramatically changed since I left, and its been for the better. The gear is extraordinary. Yes, you have to be respectful of the situation, but knowing fire behavior is tantamount to how you approach fires. I wore firefighting gear and breathing apparatus to be in realistic simulated fire situations.
Andy’s obsession with curiosity is the fuel for his photography. Follow him on Instagram for more imagery that is the truth as he sees it.