Marc Wilson's accidental war memorials

The British photographer captures Europe's WWII battlements as they disappear into the coastline
Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 2012, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson
Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 2012, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson


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All around the European coastline, unintentional monuments to past conflicts still stand. Built to keep foreign forces out during the Second World War, these concrete bunkers, towers and battlements were constructed in the first half of the 20th Century, and are now weathering away. London-born photographer Marc Wilson has taken it upon himself to document them in his project, The Last Stand.

 

Cramond Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland, 2012, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson

Cramond Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland, 2012, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson

Since 2010, Wilson - who has exhibited in the UK, Milan and New York at such institutions as the Photographers' Gallery in London - has been photographing these constructions, which lie on strips of coastline around the UK, Channel Islands, Northern France and Belgium. So far he has produced a collection of over 50 images, though this will be expanded, as he extends the project to cover the coastlines of Western France, Denmark and the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

Rather than simply serving as a historical document, Wilson's photographs convey the haunting beauty of these craggy battlements. Even so, he is keen to downplay the drama in his images.

 

Findhorn, Moray, Scotland, 2011, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson

Findhorn, Moray, Scotland, 2011, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson

"It was important that they didn't look too bold or exciting; after all it's not a bold and exciting subject," Wilson says. "What they are is dark and historically important."

Rather, these photographs show how these constructions are gradually intertwining with the landscape. One day, some will fully sink into the sand, crumble down the edge of a cliff or be subsumed by moss in woodland. Yet, even in varying states of disrepair, these Second World War structures still contrast vividly with the scenery around them, reminding us of Europe's recent history, and the slow process of erasure.

 

Hayling Island, Hampshire, England, 2013, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson

Hayling Island, Hampshire, England, 2013, from The Last Stand by Marc Wilson

The Last Stand is being exhibited around the UK into 2014, find all the dates here. For greater insight into contemporary photography, take a look at our Vitamin Ph book. For more great landscape photography, consider our great new book, EarthArt by Bernhard Edmaier. For more on buildings fashioned from the same material, try our Concrete book. Buy them all from the people who made them, here.


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