This photograph shows part of of one of the main buildings in the abandoned village of Polphail, often described as a ‘ghost village’, which is situated in contrast to the rolling hills and stunning lochs near Portavadie in Argyll, Scotland. The term abandoned might not be the best way to describe the village of Polphail, since it has never actually been lived in.
Polphail was originally built in the late 1970’s to house around 500 workers who were scheduled to build oil platforms off the Argyll coast, however construction never started due to the type of oil platform which was to be constructed becoming defunct, and so Polphail was left unoccupied. The village comprises several dorms, basements for boilers and electrical equipment to run the site, a laundrette, several bars and a large industrial kitchen. It even has large halls, which presumably would have been used for discos and events, had they ever been used at all.
The village itself has an eerie, empty, atmosphere. I’ve visited several abandoned places, and always find myself imaging the people that would have inhabited the space. The eerie thing about Polphail is that every time I tried to do just that, I was instantly reminded of the fact that no one had ever inhabited the space. This very fact itself gives Polphail its unique and oddly unsettling atmosphere.
However, despite never having been officially lived in, there are some signs of life; used cooking pots, clothing, a rusty old bike, and the most notable sign that that the site has not been left alone all these years: the vast amount of graffiti. Some of this graffiti is the standard sort of stuff seen scrawled on bathroom walls, but some of the graffiti is of a much higher standard. The more memorable artwork is that left behind by collective of artists know as the Agents of Change, who were granted permission to use the site as a makeshift graffiti gallery. More information about the AoC ‘Ghost Village Project’ and a documentary detailing the event with interviews of the artists here. And as a bonus, if you would like to see another video of our (at times slightly comical, given my shoddy narration) exploration of the village put together by my girlfriend Jennifer it can be viewed here. The video documents our journey there, and gives a look at quite a lot of the site, and in my opinion conveys some of the empty, eerie atmosphere I talked about earlier.
The hand in the image is one of the pieces of art left behind Agents of Change, and one of my favourite pieces on the site. The structure on which the graffiti is placed i the highest on the site and contains a stairwell between the dorms. The reason I chose this picture is that the hand reaching up towards the top of the tower, with its crumbling brick work, for me perfectly conveys the sense of wanting to allow the place to remain and find a purpose, despite its decaying state. At the same time a trick of the light through the camera lens makes it seem like the colours are trying to escape off of the surface structure, almost as if conscious of its finite existence, a metaphor for the way in which the artwork will live on not just through the photographs I have taken, but through the hundreds of photographs and videos which others have taken of the site which can be found on line and on YouTube.
After several offers to buy the land the site has finally been purchased and will be demolished and subsequently developed in the coming years, with rumours of a housing development, micro distillery and even a visitors centre planned for the site. More info from the local press here.
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