‘Darkened surfaces’: camouflage and the nocturnal observation of Britain, 1941–45

James Philip Robinson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Positioned in relation to an emerging geographical interest into the effects of different atmospheric and observational conditions in shaping sensory engagements with the Earth's surfaces, this paper considers how a critical examination of the practices of camouflage can open up new dialogues into how the Earth's surfaces become known, are interacted with, and transformed in the conditions of darkness. With an empirical focus on the cultural and historical geographies of nocturnal camouflage practised during the Second World War, the paper examines the systematic attempts of civil camoufleurs to understand how natural and artificial landforms were visibly 'present' in the nocturnal landscape, despite darkness often being conceived as producing an environment of 'visual absence' through diminished sensory engagement. Furthermore, the paper highlights how the tensions between visual presence/absence that shape both the nocturnal experience and the 'knowing' of landscape can often be exploited for social, cultural, and political ends, in this case, to enable protection against aerial attack.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1053-1069
    Number of pages17
    JournalEnvironment and Planning A
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • landscape
    • camouflage
    • night
    • vision
    • geographies of World War Two

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