Eight months of relentless aerial bombings, sixteen cities pounded, more than 40,000 victims: the Battle of Britain was one of the most pivotal moments in World War II, when Hitler tried to force Great Britain to surrender. As it turned out, however, it was the first real defeat for Nazi Germany, which was forced to give up and halt its campaign thanks to stiff British resistance.
London alone suffered seventy-one raids, which destroyed a third of its houses (around a million) and twenty thousand civilians were killed. The urban fabric still bears the tangible scars of those bombings, because many of the buildings that were destroyed have never been rebuilt.
These abandoned areas were the catalyst for the photographic portfolio put together by siblings Beth and Thom Atkinson. Both well known photographers, they spent six years combing the streets of London looking for urban ruins – both occasioned by the Blitz and not – in a bid to render absence visible, to collect the gaps in which the “empty” spaces document the history and emotional charge of certain places and the people who lived in them far better than the “full” ones. Altogether, one hundred and fifty spaces were photographed and forty-two of them feature in the limited edition book (600 copies) Missing Buildings, published by Hwæt Books.
The book is available for sale from the publishers: www.hwaetbooks.com.
Thom and Beth Atkinson, afterword by David Chandler, Missing Buildings, Hwæt Books, 2015