PDN Relics

Photo District News, New York, Nov. 2010 

Notable Photo Books of 2010

Relics of the Cold War
By Martin Roemers
Texts by Nadine Barth and H.J.A. Hofland
Hatje Cantz
144 pages, 73 color photographs
Hardcover, $55

In Dutch photographer Martin Roemers’s new book we see landscapes in Europe and the former Soviet Union littered, scarred and manipulated as a result of Cold War militarization. In the United Kingdom Roemers photographed crumbling hangars at a former US air force base, bunkers at an atomic bomb test laboratory, and shelters built to protect government officials from nuclear attacks. Roemers takes us inside the cold, gray tunnels of shelters and arms depots in the former West Germany, and shows us the peeling Soviet murals at abandoned military schools and army bases in East Germany. Roemers also gained access to facilities throughout the former Soviet Union, including missile silos, submarine bases and bunkers.

Roemers focuses heavily on Germany, plumbing its history as a strategic
location in the Iron Curtain, and his images make areas of both East and
West Germany look like manufacturing towns that have been abandoned as the industry supporting them fell apart or relocated. Soviet artwork—in the form of murals and statues in disrepair—also receives a great deal of attention. The images of fallen statues, and photographs of old military interiors, which show the massive old computers full of blinking lights and large buttons, could almost inspire a sense of nostalgia if they weren’t symbols of how close the people who built them brought the world to nuclear war.