"I was sitting on a plane to go on holiday and noticed the crude copy of a plane fuselage at the side of the airfield. These structures are used for training by fire crews, and I thought that they might make an interesting subject for a photographic project.

An online search revealed that Richard Mosse had already documented them in his Airside series. The results also revealed fake planes that were constructed from wood and canvas, used on daytime decoy airfields. This is what led me to discover the subject of this project and the book 'Fields Of Deception' by Colin Dobinson which charts the history of the decoys. In addition to the wartime structures that have remained in the landscape to this day, my interest focuses on the theatre of this ingenious visual deception.

Decoy relates to a secret British Air Ministry project that took place during the Second World War. The Sound City film studios in Shepperton were commissioned to design fake cities, airfields, docks and oil refineries, the objective of this simulation being to divert enemy bombs away from the real targets.

The decoys were set up a few miles away from the true locations and constructed using fires and electric lights. Today, only control bunkers remain at many of the sites as crumbling reminders of this forgotten endeavour. They sheltered the crew and housed generators for the lights. This simulation diverted 5% of enemy bombs away from their intended destinations".

Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon

The Decoy series was selected for the Source MA Graduate Photography Online, specially commended for the ESPY photography award, nominated for the Photography Grant (Conceptual) and shortlisted for the Zealous Emerge Photography Prize and Zealous Stories.

Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon

Could you tell us a little about how you first became interested in photography?

Initially it was curiosity about my father's cameras that drew me into photography, in addition to the normal photographic realms of family, friends and travel. Joining the London Independent Photography group introduced me to the idea of making a series of images around a subject.

I started working on my own self-initiated documentary projects. The Lifelines series concerned linear features that run through cities, whose function has changed over time. Examples include the Greenway in East London and the Promenade Plantèe in Paris. My next project then focussed on the village of Sipson and its long-term residents; it was threatened with demolition due to the proposed construction of a third runway at London Heathrow airport. Since that time the threat has switched to the neighbouring village of Harmondsworth.

It was my 2007 visit to the photographic festival Rencontres díArles (Arles, France) that really inspired me. There was one project which left the greatest impression on me: Beijing, Theatre of the People by Ambroise Tèzenas. He recorded the traditional alleys and collective houses in Beijing before they were demolished to make way for high-rise office blocks. The festival planted the idea of studying for a Masters, and in 2016 I completed an MA in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales in Newport, Wales.

The Decoy series was selected for the Source MA Graduate Photography Online, specially commended for the ESPY photography award, nominated for the Photography Grant (Conceptual) and shortlisted for the Zealous Emerge Photography Prize and Zealous Stories.

 

 

 

Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon
Decoy - Peter Spurgeon

For this project, you made a couple of books?

I have made two photobook dummies for this project. The first was made in 2016 for my MA and the second was made in 2018. The first one is landscape A3 format with a quarter-bound cover and silver-foiled title. In addition to the photographs, archive maps and plans at the beginning and end of the book. An extract from Stephen Spender's poem Abyss (Spender, 1945, p.53) is included before the
photographs:

When the foundations quaked and the pillars shook,
I trembled, and in the dark I felt the fear
Of the photograph my skull might take
Through the eye sockets, in one flashlit instant,
When the crumbling house would obliterate
Every impression of my sunlit life
With one impression of black final horror
Covering me with irrevocable doom.

Spender's verse gives the context of bombing during the Second World War, but also sets a poetic rather than historical tone for the book. The first photograph for each location is presented alongside the names and coordinates of the dummy and ëparentí or true target location.

The second book is A5 landscape format. The Air Ministry department that ran the decoys was so secret that it didn't have a name. It was known simply as 'Colonel Turner's Department' which I have used as the title for the book. This version presents more archive plans and photographs alongside my images.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment? 

Yes, I have just started working on a new project which takes the Bristol city boundary as a starting point to explore human issues reflected in the landscape.

And finally, are you available for commission? 

Yes, I am available for commission and can be contacted through my website

More of Peter Spurgeon's work can be found online at: 

www.peterspurgeon.photo

Instagram: @peter.spurgeon
Twitter: @peter_spurgeon