Nitrate ruins: the photography of mining in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Louise Purbrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A photographic album entitled Oficina Alianza and Port of Iquique 1899 illustrates the industrial development of nitrate mining in Chile. From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth, British capitalists dominated the extraction of Chilean nitrate and its export as a fertilizer and an explosive. The Oficina Alianza, a nitrate works at the centre of British monopoly of the trade, is, as other oficinas 10 across the Antofagasta and Tarapaca ́ regions of the Atacama Desert, a ruin. This article considers the correspondences between Alianza’s photographic album, a record of a working nitrate oficina, and its abandoned industrial structures. It examines the ruin and the photograph as Benjaminian allegories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-278
Number of pages26
JournalJournal Of Latin American Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies on 02/05/2017, available online:


  • nitrate mining
  • industrial ruin
  • industrial photography
  • Chile
  • Benjamin


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