A few items hanging on a clothesline and makeshift swings are some of the only signs of habitation in Angus MacKinnon’s photographs of La Güera – a small, virtually abandoned ruin that lies about 3 kilometers inside the Western-Sahara border and about 7 kilometers from the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou.
Last year Angus travelled by road for six months, making his way through nineteen West African and European countries as a photographer on the Invisible Borders residency project. La Güera is one of four digital series he came back with, capturing the remnants of what once was in a photo essay that was quite an effort to pull off. He says, “Gaining access to La Güera included visiting and gaining permission from several different military and police personnel, a number of persuading conversations with soldiers posted on the route, and a long walk after digging the car out of the soft sand…twice”.
From about 1920 to 1975 La Güera served as a small Spanish fishing port and military base, with a population at its peak of only 1200 people in 1974. “The town’s location,” explains Angus, “is key to its importance as it sits on the South-Western tip of the Cape Blanc (Ras Nouadhibou) peninsula, making it a very advantageous military position in the area. La Güera changed hands three times during 1975; as the Spanish moved out they were replaced by the Polisario Front, who were in turn dislodged by Mauritania’s armed forces.” These Mauritanian soldiers and a few desultory fisherman inhabit the ghostly space today.