Scotland’s secret military shooting ranges revealed in new photo series
Photographer Alex Boyd has traveled hundreds of miles from the remote bombardment areas of Cape Wrath to the site of a village in Dumfries and Galloway evacuated during WWII to make way for the training of soldiers, to record these expanses of militarized countryside.
Boyd ventured deep into the sites owned by Military of Defense, one of Scotland’s largest landowners, to illuminate the sites.
He said as he crossed the country – often hidden behind red warning flags – he encountered relics of a century of conflict, from World War I to the Cold War, in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and to the recent failed campaign in Afghanistan.
Photographer Alex Boyd’s New Book Shows The Real St Kilda
Rusted tanks, spent bullets, fake villages and dummies of insurgents were among the traces of a country training for war.
Boyd said: âThere is another Scotland, often hidden behind red warning flags, one that I have been interested in for a long time.
“Our military landscapes are fascinating environments, where, alongside bullets, scars from bombing and war machines, we also have some of the most unspoiled landscapes in Europe.”
He said the military presence protected the landscapes from further development, with the sites becoming places of conservation, as well as destruction. The Tain Air Weapons Range contains one of the UK’s largest preserved dune systems.
Boyd said, âHowever, they’re not always right. In southern Scotland, I saw an Iron Age fort turned into a Cold War tank firing station, the remains of Abbey Burn Foot, a wartime village emptied of its inhabitants , and signs warning of the dangers of depleted uranium contamination. ” he said.
The photographer, who has worked extensively on St Kilda, Lewis and Harris, said the view from the summit of Sgribhis-bheinn in Cape Wrath, a hill that has been bombed and bombarded continuously for decades, was the one he “would never forget”.
As he stood at the top – with sandbags at his feet from a makeshift sniper position – the silhouette of Ben Loyal soared to the east, Cape Wrath Lighthouse to the west, and the hills towards Sandwood Bay to the south.
He added: âHowever, below me was a lunar landscape – a site of utter devastation – thousands of shell craters made by warships, bombers and mortars. Yet even here among twisted shrapnel and unexploded shrapnel, there was life – countless red deer sheltering alongside the remains of charred armored vehicles. “
The images now form Boyd’s latest exhibition, Tir an Airm (Land of the Military), which premieres in Edinburgh later this month.
The photographer worked with the Department of Defense to gain access to a number of locations, with the exhibit using still photographs and drones to reveal Scotland’s âcomplex and largely unknown militarized landscapesâ.
The show also features the work of guest artist Mhairi Killin RSA, who will feature work from his series “Fata Morgana”, which explores drone warfare tests in the Outer Hebrides.
Tir an Airm will open at the Stills Gallery, Cockburn Street, Edinburgh on September 30.
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