Traveling 23,000 miles over 4 years, photographer Marc Wilson has amassed an amazing collection of images spanning bunkers, gun emplacements, observation posts, command centres and other wartime infrastructure around Europe.
In his book, The Last Stand, 88 of the resulting images are arrayed to tell a complex story of different times and places. More than merely photographing these haunting remnants of war, however, Wilson also provides highly articulate reflections on everything from their site-specific purposes and aesthetics to their broader places in military and architectural histories.
“Composed of copious quantities of poured concrete,” many of these structures “defy and eschew any established aesthetic sensibilities: no hint of the classical, the gothic or the baroque here. Their geometries, purely contingent, were designed to resist the effects of the latest developments in projectile technology, their profiles shaped to deflect such missiles and avoid any direct percussive explosions on their structures.”
His shots are carefully composed and timed, often taking place in the early hours of the morning when eerie mists and dim lights grant the subjects a surrealistic atmosphere. There is a dreaminess and dreariness to his work that manages to make the objects captured seem both ordinary and otherworldly. Prints of many of the pieces featured in the book can be purchased as well.
Unlike even the most pragmatic warehouse of the time, “there was nothing speculative or arbitrary about the bulwarks of their sometimes bizarre and often ungainly forms: they were purely functional. While far from being graceful or classically proportioned, there is something visually appealing about the alien (and sometimes sinister) forms of those bunkers. Novelty does not quite describe this appeal: more surprise perhaps – a surprise that courts the sublime.”