WHILE some Scots spend their weekends exploring the great outdoors, photographer Ben Cooper goes on walks with a difference, venturing into Scotland’s industrial landscape and documenting some of its forgotten buildings and structures.
Since 2008 Cooper has visited around sixty sites across the country for his Transient Places photoblog. The blog has covered abandoned power stations, former hospitals, ex-military bases and other industrial relics, each of which present their own unique challenges and hold their own unique charms.
“Sometimes it’s a case of turning up, finding the right door left open, and you’re in,” says Cooper. Other buildings, such as the former coal-slurry power plant at Methil in Fife, took a little more perseverance, and “half-a-dozen visits, checking entrances, working out how to get inside”.
With all the difficulties associated with this urban exploration, the big question looms into view - why?
Cooper’s love of photography, and desire for new ideas, drives his exploration. He aims to bring a spotlight and a new eye to places that “no-one pays much attention to”.
On his website, Cooper sums up another reason behind his exploration - a need to take on the new and unexpected. He writes: “In our modern world, we are no longer wandering over the grasslands, we are bounded by fences, walls, borders and signs. Mostly by signs – “No Entry”, “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted”, “Danger Of Death”.
“But, above all, we are bounded by expectations.”
Expectations, and a need to preserve valuable yet often-abandoned pieces of industrial heritage. Cooper explains: “My biggest concern is that some places are too nice to be destroyed.
“Sites like these can become targets for vandals and metal thieves, so anywhere that could be damaged I try to keep quiet about.”
When pressed for the name of a favourite location, Cooper plumps for the Royal Ordnance Factory at Bishopton, a one-and-a-half mile long, two-and-a-half mile wide munitions site in Renfrewshire. “It’s gigantic”, Cooper says, “with hundreds and hundreds of buildings. You could spend days and days there.”
Whether spending days in abandoned military factories, or “climbing up a crane, grabbing some fantastic views and climbing back down again”, Cooper’s photos show off the breadth and range of Scotland’s built heritage. And like the best snaps from a mountain walk, Transient Places’ shots take you along for the ride.
• All pictures © Ben Cooper/Transient Places