Cold War photos bring history to life at the Diefenbunker

An Australian photographer is bringing images of the Cold War to Ottawa's own monument to the era: the Diefenbunker.

Brett Leigh Dicks said he's fascinated by bunkers, missile silos and other relics of the time and spent the last 20 years documenting them with his camera.

"I was born in the early part of the '60s so my entire childhood was spent during the cold war and all that tension," he told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

After first touring abandoned silos near Tucson, Arizona, he wanted to see more places left behind.  

"I just became obsessed with them."

In the U.S., some sites have been decommissioned and in many cases turned over to private hands, he said. The former Soviet Union simply walked away from many of their sites, which have since been converted to new uses.  

"Everything ranging from paintball fields to meth labs," he said.

History, the 'great teacher'

Dicks said he hopes people will remember the legacy of these sites when they look at them.  

"I think history is a great teacher and if we heeded it better I don't think we would get into so many problems."

But once he's in the sites, Dicks said he focuses on the photography.  

"I am looking at the shapes, the shadows. I am trying to walk away with photographs of that space and the feeling of that space."

Dicks' work is on display at the Diefenbunker until Sept. 9, following a cross-continent trip from California.

He said the Diefenbunker was worth the long trip.  

"It's an amazing facility. They have done such a superb job in preserving it and capturing that era."