Isla Forsyth – Shadow Chasers: exploring the vertical and angular geographies of camouflage

Event date: 8 December 2010
Bedford Square London

Royal Holloway University of London Department of Geography

Vertical Geographies

Recent geographical scholarship has highlighted the importance of ‘verticality’ – aerial and three dimensional perspectives – in conceptualizations of space, territory, sovereignty and power. Within the subdiscipline of critical geopolitics, this interest has been, in part, provoked by recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan and mobilized though broader discussions of warfare, surveillance, air (and space) power, communications technologies and military hardware.


Isla Forsyth (University of Glasgow)
Shadow Chasers:  exploring the vertical and angular geographies of camouflage

Solomon J Solomon the British artist and WWI camoufleur was by the end of the war a man haunted by shadows. He had recognised the irregular specks on an aerial photograph to be signs of a cunning bluff, trickery and deception which had outwitted the aerial camera. He recognised camouflage.

WWI had seen the emergence of military aerial surveying and thus in turn the evolution of modern military camouflage. By WWII air power had grown in strength and purpose and there was a greater urgency to develop camouflage. War was now being fought vertically as well as horizontally, a game of cat and mouse ensued. Aerial photographic interpreters paid close a^ention and developed a detailed appreciation of vertical geographies to expose enemy military strategy, therefore camoufleurs, in turn also had to become experts in visual literacy. This a^empt to outwit aerial reconnaissance was an exercise in understanding and subverting the entanglement of vertical and horizontal planes revealed by the cameras lens through exposing cast shadows. Therefore, the angle of the suns rays, the plane and the camera all had to be considered whilst developing camouflage schemes. Thus, the story of the World War camoufleurs is on of an emergent and complex vertical geography preoccupied with angles which brought new understandings of cubic and military space into being.








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