John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A New York art exhibit explores the scars war left on the landscape.
It's been nearly seven decades since the last shot sounded in World War II, yet the legacy of violence remains written on the land. Venture out into the woods and you might just stumble upon (or into) a dinosaur-sized divot in the earth, marking the spot where one or another form of bomb exploded, with unknown costs to human life.
The blasting of Europe in the 1940s was so brutal it left some areas looking like they'd been aerated by an insane gardener. Here's a V-1 launch site in Beauvoir, France, for instance, superimposed onto more-recent imagery. The U.S. targeted this spot for 12 bombing runs:
Nowadays, these destroyed places are less moonlike thanks to the regrowth of nature and spreading development. But if you have the right tools you can still track down impressive-sized bomb craters hiding in plain sight. That's exactly how Henning Rogge, a photographer from Hamburg, Germany, has been spending his time. Rogge scouts out the locations of WWII detonations using aerial photos and esoteric mapping techniques. He then treks out into meadows and forests with his camera to find old craters—often filled with standing water and hairy with weeds.
Rogge's melancholy, oddly beautiful landscapes are part of the exhibit "The Beautiful Changes," opening July 17 at New York City's RH Contemporary Art and running through September 13. For folks who can't make it, check out a few of the images below as well as this description of the project sent by one of the photographer's representatives:
Little evidence exists of the violence that created such landscapes. Rogge’s photographs of these places point to this disconnect—the way violent histories can later appear as placid sites of remembrance. In their pairing of current serenity with past rupture, he asks the viewer to consider the healing effect of time: If this scarred landscape has recovered from the war’s violence, can a country, or a person, heal in the same way?
All photos by Henning Rogge