Airfix ruins

Photographer Thom Atkinson worked with painted Airfix models to create a series of compelling images of bombed-out buildings which explore the mythology of conflict…

European Ruined Cafe 1:76

Photographer Thom Atkinson worked with painted Airfix models to create a series of compelling images of bombed-out buildings which explore the mythology of conflict…

Isloated and removed from their more usual placement within a diorama, the distressed model buildings look all the more tragic centred squarely in Atkinson’s pictures. Each Airfix model in Atkinson’s series reflects a particular period and location of conflict that Britain has been involvedin, from an ‘Italian Townhouse’ to an ‘Afghan Single Story Dwelling’.

“I’ve been making two long term book projects for a few years, both of which are about the World Wars and the way in which they are passing into British mythology,” says Atkinson, who recently completed an MA in Photography on the subject. “While researching, I found that Airfix manufactured these resin ruins – they’re based on real buildings, apparently.”

European Church 1:76

In a way, the models are a history of conflict – “the places Britain has blown up, or liberated, over 100 years or so,” says Atkinson. “Initially, I photographed them unpainted. They’re white underneath so they look sort of ghostly. But while I was picking them up (they were loaned to me by Airfix), I was shown a set of painted display models, which I borrowed as well.

“In the end, I think there’s more to the painted models – this extra layer of ideas floating around about the creative and imaginative side of model making. It’s as though they are little effigies or voodoo dolls. The models are all images of destruction, so it sits strangely with the act of creation which made them.”

European Country Cottage Ruin 1:76

Atkinson also believes that as all the buildings are ordinary structures, representing civilian life rather than the military activity, this adds something to the project, too. “I suppose this is quite disturbing and cuts through the heroic fantasies which some other models might be about,” he says.

“More generally, my interest is in myth – not myth in the sense of a lie, but rather in the sense of storytelling and coming to terms with history. I just like what these models suggest about that. In a way, Airfix is a sort of ritual in which the past is re-enacted and stories are passed down.”

The full Airfix Ruins series can be seen on Atkinson’s website,

European Brewery 1:76

European Ruined Workshop 1:76

European Four Storey Shop 1:76

Narrow Road Bridge Full Span 1:72


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