David Creedon | Ghosts of the Faithful Departed
23 JANUARY – 6 MARCH 2009
Photofusion is delighted to introduce Ghosts of the Faithful Departed by Irish photographer David Creedon to UK audiences. Between 2005 and 2007 Creedon photographed the many abandoned, derelict houses to be found throughout Ireland. His photographs capture the frequently overlooked and largely unspoken experiences of those who stayed in rural areas all over Ireland of the twentieth century when other family members left for cities in Ireland, England, the US and elsewhere.
The majority of the inhabitants of these once poor rural homesteads fled Ireland’s dire poverty during the mass emigration that took place predominantly in the1950s. At that time it was normal for one family member to stay behind to help run the farm and look after their elderly parents. When the parents died those left often found that they were alone without families of their own. When, in turn, they passed on, the title of ownership passed to far-flung relatives. Presently these houses lie deserted awaiting the return of owners whose dreams of coming home may never be realised.
It has been estimated that between 1949 and 1989 well over 800,000 people were forced to leave Ireland with more than half of this outflow estimated to have taken place during the 1950s. The peak was reached in 1955 when 55,000 young people left the shores. In a census taken in 1956 the population of the country fell to 2.8 million – the lowest ever recorded and led one author to question: “Are we becoming the Vanishing Irish and would we survive as a race if something wasn’t done to stem the outflow?”
Those who stayed had to suffer continued hardships, isolation and social exclusion. The rural communities were decimated by the impact of emigration. Many of those who stayed during the 1950s did so in silence as they watched family members and friends leave. Now, in a new millennium, these people have passed on and their homes stand as a monument to a bygone age.
Creedon describes his experience to that of a forensic scientist, examining objects and letters to get a background and understanding of the lives of the people who once lived there. For example, finding clothes packed away and still unworn with their shop labels attached and which were once high fashion in places like Queens or Brooklyn. Rural Ireland of the 1950s was a far cry from cosmopolitan London or New York and the opportunities to wear such fashionable attire may not have existed in the harsh reality of West Cork or Mayo. Photographed in available light with a slow shutter speed at different times of the day, these abandoned interiors and the treasures inside that once formed part of the fixtures and fittings of their owners lives, are brought out of the shadows to reveal a part of Irish history that had been left to the ravages of time.
David Creedon was born in Ireland (1957) and lives in Cork. His work is regularly published and this series of photographs has been featured in a range of international magazines including Eyemazing, Ei8ht and Irish Arts Review. The Irish Independent has referred to Creedon as ‘Cork’s Vermeer’ and Ghosts of the Faithful Departed has been described ‘as one of the most significant collections of photography in contemporary Ireland and will be amongst the most important works of Irish art in years to come’.