Injecting joyful chaos into the spaces hidden within abandoned Irish cottages

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“The interventions are intended as a fresh approach to subject matter that would otherwise be considered nostalgic,” explains Belfast-based photographer Jill Quigley, describing the work she’s been making in abandoned buildings in Ireland.

The project came about when she sought a subject to work on during her master’s degree at the University of Ulster in Belfast, whose Photography MFA has gathered much recent praise. “I was drawn to the contradiction between contemporary lifestyle and all the historical aspects that linger in rural places, such as the area where I grew up in County Donegal,” she explains.

“When I was walking around looking for inspiration, I came across many of these little abandoned houses. The problem was that the kind of imagery associated with places like these purports to document a disappearing way of life, and that wasn’t something I wanted to replicate. By painting things or throwing [something] the moment I took the photograph, I aimed to emphasise the present tense. Thankfully, due to the redundant nature of the spaces there was no need to be subtle. And, rationality aside, I relished the chance to create my own secret world within the local community, hidden inside these empty cottages.”

Cottages of Quigley’s Point marks a departure from her previous work, and she admits that she’s still very much in the middle of it, working out her ideas. “I’ve always loved street photography as I enjoy the game of pulling images from the chaos all around you. The staged elements of the project came about as a response to a problem I was having with the subject matter, I hadn’t necessarily planned to work in that way,” she says. “During the course of my research for the project I came across the building cuts of Gordon Matta-Clark and John Divola’s Zuma series, and I realised how transformative and exhilarating the effects of intervening in abandoned architectural space can be.” Ultimately Quigley would like to conceptualise it as a publication, seeing it “as a kind of alternative local history book”.

Her images were recently displayed at Belfast Photo Festival as part of a group exhibition called ‘House and Home’ with Vincenzo Pagliuca and Diego Saldiva and the FreshFaced + WildEyed exhibition in The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

See more of Jill’s work here.

First published in the January 2014 issue. You can buy the issue here.