Scotland’s industrial relics caught on camera

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.

Gartloch Asylum. Picture: Ben Cooper
Gartloch Asylum. Picture: Ben Cooper
Gartloch Asylum. Picture: Ben Cooper

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”.

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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.”

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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.

• Ben Cooper’s Transient Places photoblog can be viewed here; follow Transient Places on Facebook here

• All pictures © Ben Cooper/Transient Places