An Underground Facility; Two Friends, Their Photograph, and Their Film

3 min read by Dmitri.
Published on .

The photograph, above, is taken at a defunct military storage facility in Invergorden, Scotland. This underground structure used to host a strategic supply of heavy, viscous fuel to power the floating war machines during WWII.

Since the ‘80s, this type of fuel is no longer in use; the facility stands decommissioned. In its time, it was meant to be a bomb-proof stash to keep the floating army on the move. Today, it remains one of the largest man-made structures that holds the record for the longest indoor sonic echo recorded.

The photograph is a result of an effort by two friends who got an opportunity to visit the location, inaccessible to the general public. The photographers are David Allen and Simon Riddell, who connected a year prior over their love for adventure, cameras, and eccentric demeanour.

David holds a master’s degree in mathematics as he works freelance and lives in southwest France with his wife and two kids. His photographs are characteristically experimental, often featuring stark geometry and double-exposures.

Simon is a fire risk consultant and a film photographer living in the Scottish Highlands. Like David, he’s into rock climbing and extreme weather/terrain adventures. Despite living in different countries, both men quickly became friends following their first adventure to the cold & windy seashore.

The making of.

To produce the photograph, aside from acquiring access to the facility, the team used a special pre-production conversion kit for their Intrepid large format camera and a slew of chemicals to create a one-point-two-meter-long (over four feet) print on location.

The challenge, which the friends self-imposed, consisted of bringing a few gallons of water, a large piece of photo-sensitive paper, and assembling an easel for projection. Along with it, they squeezed three inflatable kiddie pools through the pitch-black manholes. This is not counting the lights, supplies, and all support equipment. All to produce a complete image, sealed from the rest of the world.

Along with all the gear, the team brought someone to film them and a few guests into the darkness. The resulting video footage, along with material from other shoots, is compiled into an hour-and-twenty-minute-long documentary.

The documentary has been screened at a few venues, including Royal Photographic Society in Bristol. It’s now available for rent or purchase on the Inchindown website via Vimeo video streaming platform.

Having seen the video ahead of the public release, let me warn you that it won’t be to everyone’s liking. The documentary is full of dialogue, segues, quirky jokes, and unexpected cameos. The scenes vary in their topics between adventure, friendship, personal loss, family interviews, a lengthy guided tour, and reality-like outtakes. The film is a colossal effort though, undeniably, it is rough around the edges.