Over at Wired there’s a collection of Jonathan Andrew’s stunning photos of World War II bunkers. Andrew has been taking these floodlit, night photos of the bunkers since ’08-’09, and the Wired article has a gallery of twelve of them. He’s not the first to look at these sorts of fortifications and see art, or at least a strange beauty that’s worth capturing. Curves that resist shells and shockwaves also give the concrete casings an almost organic look, while weapon apertures exude menace even fifty years after the guns were taken away.
Why is “bunker archaeology” so interesting, especially when the origins of so many of the structures are so tawdry or even horrifying? Some of it is probably purely aesthetic, but I think there’s also a fascination with defensive architecture that exudes such permanency. The awesome solidity of the bunkers—the reason they survive is that they’re just too tough to demolish—is in contrast to the deliberate temporariness of more recent field fortifications. Today, building not to last is a feature not a bug.
It’s also hard to imagine Andrew dressed in “Black shoes, black gloves, a black balaclava and a black backpack to hold the battery he needed to fire off his 1200 watt flash,” out shooting pictures of a drone-pilot’s van or the landing point of a trans-Pacific fiber optic cable, though I can see him at the Delta-09 launch site once he’s done with the Atlantic Wall. It’s not that more recent defensive structures lack the survivability or lethality of the bunkers. It’s just that they don’t really look the part.