I have waxed lyrical over the random world of the Barten brothers in the past but if you are new to this corner of the Internet you should know they are awash with the legacy of World War II resulting in a long-running series of photographic books featuring pretty much anything powered by an internal combustion engine.
A year ago they came up with a photographic essay about wartime airfield control towers found here in the UK and conspired to produce a quirky travelogue of their adventures wrapped around the architecture of a past that is often in jeopardy of disappearing.
Now, you might think a second volume might be pushing it a little, but they have somehow managed to put together a completely new selection of photographs that accompany a little bit of prose with each control tower. The text may be of a historical nature or more often that not it will be about fields of mud, nice people, tractors and other minutiae.
The book reveals some of the challenges presented by photographing the subject matter and it isn’t all roses. Some sites are much easier to access than others while still more are part of the defence establishment and are off limits.
I fished out my review of the first instalment and realised I am repeating myself here, but who cares? Books like this are good fun and will obviously appeal to airfield hunters. It will also find a use for military historians and will definitely act as inspiration for people wanting to take their own photos of these places.
There is something appealing about old aerodromes – the architecture, the neglect and the ghosts. New uses for control towers are many and varied, and while some remain in their original roles, many are now homes, museums or workshops. One has even been transported brick for brick from Lincolnshire to Virginia.
Weather and light changes in these islands all the time, so there are myriad opportunities to see these places when you can get four seasons in one day. Part of the appeal, I am sure; that Frans and Theo take from this is the travel and the variety of places they get to.
The Dutch seem to have a wanderlust for getting off the beaten track, and you can’t get much more remote than some of the locations in this collection. It all adds up to another entertaining instalment from writer/photographers who never fail to delight.
Useful books done well are always worth having.
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online
ALL ALONG THE CONTROL TOWER Volume 2
By Frans Barten & Theo Barten