In some places in Ireland there are housing developments that stand like lonely sentries, waiting for people who never come. Valérie Anex’s series “Ghost Estates, Ireland, 2011” captures these eerie non-residences and their all but unused communal spaces.
The National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis NIRSA defines a ghost estate as a development of ten houses or more in which fifty per cent or less of homes are occupied or completed. In October 2010, according to official estimates, there were 2846 ghost estates and more than 350 000 vacant homes throughout the Republic of Ireland.
Even completed and populated these estates would be odd Stepford-like places, with their rows of identical buildings spreading across the countryside. Lived in, though, they would adapt and change, influenced by their residents. Landscaping, additions, a new front door color— eventually the sameness of the buildings would subside. Empty, though, the monotony is numbing. Anex’s photos are stark and documentary in style. The repetition of the house forms, a superfluous real-life copy and paste, benefit from their pragmatic composition. Anex doesn’t rely on fancy tricks or filters to evoke the paralysis of these places—the empty eyed windows and rubble-strewn lawns become increasingly disturbing with each image in the series.
These empty shells are eyesores for the locals in these small towns. The crisis is affecting the country – unemployment, debts, budget cuts, flights of capital investments – but it is also shaping its landscape. Bitter memories left by the spectral and temporary nature of the property boom in Ireland, ghost estates are the symbol of the property market’s collapse, a topology of the economic disintegration of the country.
There are some residents in these ghost estates, though Anex has chosen not to include them in her photos. Tana French’s chilling 2013 novel, Broken Harbor, is set in such a place. In that book, madness and murder and awful fear take place among the mostly empty and unfinished houses of an Irish ghost estate. Looking at these photos, it doesn’t seem a stretch. It can’t be comfortable to live in such a place, with unfinished houses and absent lives. (via Slate)