Seldom Seen #2: Wee Rabbit

Wee Rabbit

This picture shows a small stuffed toy rabbit that I found while exploring an old car mechanics on Ardgowan Street in Port Glasgow. The buildings, which were only recently abandoned and have since been demolished due to a fire which occurred shortly after the premises being vacated, sat on a much larger site of empty wasteland, and were the last buildings which remained on the site. The site contained some fairly juvenile graffiti, nowhere near the standard that I’ve found at other sites such as Polphail, and was strewn with wrecked furniture, old oil drums and piles of old burned tyres and various pieces of car. You could still smell the smoke from the fire several years previous inside the buildings.

The reason I chose this picture is that for me it leaves more questions than it answers. Whereas the old tyres and bits of car immediately inform you that the old building was one a mechanics, the little rabbit leaves you wondering how it got to be in such an inherently adult and traditionally masculine environment, far removed from the type of place you might expect a child to play and accidentally leave behind its toy.

Maybe it was left behind by one of the people who used to work here, a present given to a mother or father from their child to take to work and remember them by. Or perhaps it accidentally found its way into a bag or a pocket in the morning rush to get everyone to work, school or nursery. Or, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it was left here by a child. After all, children can be adventurous and inquisitive, and may well have decide to explore that building which they could never previously access but which now lay wide open in its abandoned state. If I’m honest, it’s probably a bit of that childish curiosity that brings me to explore these places.

This limited edition one-off A2 framed print is available to buy for £100 ono. Please get in touch if interested – 07757897097 or hello@kieranhamilton.org

Seldom Seen #1: Polphail

Grafitti on one of the buildings in Polphail 'Ghost Village'

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.

This limited edition one-off framed 70x50cm print is available to buy for £250 ono. Please get in touch if interested – 07577897097 or hello@kieranhamilton.org

My First Exhibition: “Seldom Seen” DNA Hub Glasgow, 16th-18th August

Obligatory shot of a piece of cake (taken at DNA Hub of course!)

Obligatory shot of a piece of cake (taken at DNA Hub of course!)

I am very happy to announce that this weekend, Friday the 16th to Sunday the 18th of August, I will be putting on my first photography exhibition courtesy of the wonderful people at DNA Hub Glasgow and Somewhereto_’s re:store [the high street heist] project. The project involves reclaiming empty shops across the UK’s high streets and inviting young people aged 16-25 (I just made it) to use the space.

After the launch of the London store on the 18th of July DNA Hub Glasgow, a pop-up shared arts space in the Merchant City, opened at 12-16 South Frederick Street on the 30th of July. DNA Hub has so far hosted an eclectic range of events, including a night showcasing bands from Glasgow’s up and coming music scene; Photovoices – a participatory project giving the young people of Scotland a voice through photography; a pop up cake boutique; a live comic book art installation; design speed dating aimed at skill swapping and artistic development, Our Founding Daughters – a project showcasing Scotland’s most talented female fashion photographers, and Insect Eats Pop Up, a food project aimed at challenging the way we eat and exploring the sustainability of food, as well as several other events and ongoing projects.

My project ‘Seldom Seen’ brings together several years of urban and abandoned (or ‘urbex’ – urban exploration) photography around Glasgow and the West of Scotland – focusing not just on hidden or abandoned buildings and spaces but also on some of the more obvious buildings and structures which we see every day but never truly stop to think about, hinting at the ‘hidden in plain sight’ element of some of the West of Scotland’s spaces, structures and architecture.

The aim of the project is to encourage people to consider the social history behind some of the places I have photographed as well as the lives and stories of the people who may have lived or worked there, or even those who may have just visited these spaces in their abandoned state. The project also aims to highlight and encourage a consideration of what these spaces could potentially be used for in the future, much in the same way that the Somewhereto_’s re:store project has used empty shops as pop up arts spaces, and in many ways, although I have been photographing locations like the ones featured in the exhibition for several years, the Somewhereto_ project has inspired me to use my photography for this purpose and helped consolidate my thoughts about both the ‘hidden’ places I explore and those which are ‘hidden in plain sight’ which I see almost every day.

My hopes are that, pending funding and the help of others, this initial exhibition can grow into something which allows me to help other amateur photographers develop their photography skills through free photography workshops, potentially using some of the abandoned spaces I’ve came across in Glasgow, as well as encouraging others to go out and find such places and photograph them. It might be a bit ambitious, but given the limited number of free arts spaces, the project could go on to help develop more spaces for use by other artists, musicians, photographers, designers or anyone else who needs a space to do what they want to do. As well as providing an opportunity for other people like me I hope my project can go on to help draw attention to and ultimately utilise some of the many empty or abandoned buildings and spaces which otherwise might go unnoticed and eventually be lost to urban decay.

My photography will be on display from 10am on Friday the 16th of August to Sunday the 18th at the DNA Hub at 12-16 South Frederick Street, Merchant City, Glasgow, and I’ll be about on the Friday if anyone fancies a chat.

If you can’t make it along between the 16th and 18th then pop in some other time this month and see some of the other great stuff going on at the DNA Hub, which is running until the 30th of August.