In 2014 I was invited to make a body of work for an exhibition entitled, ‘Monument’. Each artist was to consider responding to the subject of ‘monument’ within the context of World War One or Two.
The resulting work was exhibited in a large group show in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art, Norwich and le musée des beaux arts de Calais, France.
My father was in the RAF. It was for this reason that we moved to Lincolnshire. Growing up in a county that has been called Bomber County I have always been fascinated by the World War II airfields and their place and presence within the landscape. Over the course of the years I have made a few attempts to photograph them but could never find a motif that transcended the overly nostalgic.
When I first discovered the woodpiles at Hethel on the former air base there I knew immediately I wanted to photograph them. Built from the enveloping coppiced woodland and sitting amongst the last vestiges of dilapidated military buildings, perimeter tracks and barbed wire, these woodpiles allude to a form of shelter reminiscent of the forest camps found in Primo Levi's 'If Not Now, When?' and intriguingly, strangely mirror Sebald's vision of Cologne and other bombed out cities across Europe at the end of hostilities when he describes the ruins and makeshift shelters as being 'transformed by the dense green vegetation growing over them - the roads made their way through this new landscape like peaceful deep-set country lanes'.
RAF Hethel, Norfolk was built in 1942 and served as an operational base for 389th, USAAF Eighth Air Force Group. It's primary function focused on strategic objectives in France, the Low Countries, and Germany. Amongst their intensive air campaign’s, the group participated in the Normandy invasion in June 1944 by bombing gun batteries, airfields and enemy positions in addition to flying support and interdictory missions. Some of the dispersal tracks and runways are now used by Lotus Cars for manufacturing and testing and the roar of these engines is somewhat fitting as it put me in mind of the noise the B-17 and B-24 bombers must have made as they took off on their nightly voyages into enemy territories. These woodpiles, built for storage and to repel the rain in order that the wood can dry out, stand as monuments to these campaigns, it's participants, victims, its aftermath and memory: 3.4 million tons of allied bombs dropped, 131 German cities attacked, 3.5 million homes destroyed, 7.5 million homeless, 12,000 heavy bombers shot down, 100,000 allied airmen lost amongst countless civilian victims.
‘Shelter’ is a series of five large scale black & white light-boxes (122cmx152cm each), mnemonic devices recalling much of the photographic imagery of the war and the cinematic newsreels that broadcast them during the war.