“For more than half a century, time and weather have purified the ground at El Guettar and Kasserine and Longstop. But the slit trenches remain, and rusty C-ration cans, and shell fragments scattered like seed corn. The lay of the land also remains—the vulnerable low ground, the superior high ground: incessant reminders of how, in battle, topography is fate.”
— Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa
This project considers the varied landscapes of North Africa that the Allied soldier of World War II was forced to endure. Thousands of miles from home, largely untraveled and ignorant of lands and peoples outside their home countries, he was dropped onto the shores of what must have seemed to him a dangerous and alien environment—his understanding of the land limited to stereotype, myth and the relevant army field manual.
I spent a month in Tunisia in February 2011 and just returned from a month in Libya to photograph these unfamiliar North African landscapes upon which many crucial battles in the North African Campaign were fought. The sites were found utilizing old battle maps with which I was able to trace the exact paths the Allied military units used during the war. These sites had not been seen and certainly not photographed in over 60 years. I have documented the battlefields as they currently stand in a personal style of landscape photography; impressionistic muted horizons of desert, coastal seascape and grassland, incorporating bunkers, trenches and physical artifacts of the conflict that remain as part of the environment. 70 years have not yet eradicated traces of the fighting. Campsites can still be found evident by the amount of ration tins, trench systems and pill boxes that still carry the marks of battle. Unexploded shells, barbed wire and mines still litter the landscapes of North Africa and occasionally claim yet another victim, as if the very land itself is reminding us of the tragedy of war. These photographs depict the quite peaceful landscape that it is today, so very different from yesterday.
With the 70th anniversary of Al Alamein closely at hand this year as well as the anniversary of the end of the North African Campaign next year, and the current unrest in this region, these images become quite germane.