A horrific image of Grenfell Tower in flames could be the most striking news photograph of the year — here’s how it was taken

An image showing the Grenfell Tower apartment block being engulfed by flames has been chosen as one of the most powerful news photographs of the past year.

The image shows the 24-floor building coated in bright flames. It is one of 55 images appearing in Assignments 2017, an exhibition by the British Press Photographers Association.

Chunks of cladding material, since revealed to have fallen dangerously short of fire safety standards, burn and spark as they fall from the main structure.

Grenfell Tower shot cropped BPPA

Guilhem Baker

The picture was taken by Guilhem Baker, a freelance photographer who is widely published in the British press.

In an interview with Business Insider, Baker described how he took the photograph while dodging chunks of burning debris. He said:

“You heard screaming and cries for help from a great distance actually on the approach and then the screaming stopped.

It became immediately clear when talking to residents that the cause of the rapid spread was linked to the cladding. Although I saw a lot of things that night I did not take photos of – it was unpublishable, awful – the thing I decided to focus on was the material itself.

I found myself unexpectedly close, just outside (and at times inside) an adjoining building that had been evacuated. I could feel the heat. I was trying to get a sense of the intensity and the fact that it was the cladding that was igniting.

This was one photo that stood out. This was the smoking gun with the material. There were pieces landing behind me, I was having to move. I was keeping magnetically-locking access doors open for the fire brigade, who were trying to find new ways of running hoses through.”

The image was widely used, and appeared the next day on the front page of The Times:

Grenfell Tower is a dominant theme in the BPPA exhibiton, with several of the photographs showing the fire or its aftermath.

Another shot, by Nigel Howard, shows a crowd of people huddled together near the burning tower as a policeman tapes off the area.


Nigel Howard

A second, by Rick Findler, shows former Grenfell resident Georgina Aguirre standing on the balcony of a nearby building with her old home smouldering in the background. Grenfell smoking ruin photo BPPA

Rick Findler

A final image from Adam Gerrard shows investigators picking their way through the scorched upper floors of the tower.

Grenfell 2 crop

Adam Gerrard

Assignments 2017 is being held at the Old Truman Brewery in east London, and is open to the public from October 13 to October 16.