I spotted an interesting feature on the BBC website the other day, reproducing a series of images from The Last Stand, a project by photographer Marc Wilson (a larger number of photos from it can be found on Wilson’s website). There’s a cold, rather ethereal air to the photographs, which feels appropriate – colour saturated shots in bright sunshine would jar. I’m looking forward to the promised exhibition and book.
As soon as I clapped eyes on Wilson’s pictures, I thought of Paul Virillo’s Bunker Archaeology, a classic study of the concrete defensive structures built by the Germans along the French Atlantic coast in the 1940s. In some ways, it’s an infuriating book; in other ways, it provides a superlative example of what can be achieved with photography-led archaeology. The introductory chapters may be short but, being originally written in French by a Gallic penseur and then translated into English, they are quite hard going (explaining why I have been making such heavy weather of getting through them over the past few weeks). That said, they are dripping with ideas that bring to life Virillo’s exquisite monochrome photos. Coupled with the simple, stark layout of the images and text (which met with the approval of my graphic designer girlfriend), Bunker Archaeology provides a model of how fieldwork – particularly in fields such as landscape archaeology and architectural history – can be presented in an alternative manner, one that is more visually appealing without losing the scholarly robustness of the argument(s) in hand. I’m now going to have a little think about whether any of my past/present/future research could be presented in an equivalent way.
(More tasty images of bunkers and more can be found in this post on the always-interesting BLDGBLOG.)