US 80 Exotic Country, a new book of photographs by William Eckersley and Alexander Shields is a good opportunity to remind readers of their previous collaboration, Left London, published by Stucco Press in 2006.
A work of great hauntological gravity, Eckersley and Shields take us behind the razor wire and temporary hoardings, past the guard dogs and padlocks, to reveal the most fantastic scenes of rack and ruin. There’s nothing stately or grand about what they show: if these places were bodies, the rotting flesh would still be sliding off the bones. Curtains and telephones, safety notices and kitchen counters still hint at some human presence. The wear and tear they underline, however, seems strangely impersonal, as if some greater force than human hands had been responsible.
Arranged in sections that ironically evoke the grand achievements of mass society – Industry, Transport, Health and Leisure – there’s nothing small or intimate about the structures Eckersley and Shields have so lovingly captured with their cameras. Every image contains the muffled echo of derelict space.