I’ve become slightly obsessed with the house next door. The house we rent is semi-detached, and the house we’re attached to is derelict. In a street like this – which is very pleasant, attractive, and middle-class – it’s a real shock to see a house in this state of disrepair. Through speaking to neighbours, we’ve learned that it’s owned by an elderly lady who’s been living in a care home for many years and who flatly refuses to sell the house, or maintain it. Windows are broken, the rendering is breaking off the walls, window frames are rotten, rubbish lies everywhere, and there’s grafitti on the back door. Our landlord has had problems in the past with damp seeping through to our house from next door and it would be difficult to sell the house we’re in because of the threat next door poses to its structure. Much longer, and the only option for it will be demolition.
It’s desperately sad to see this house lying abandoned and unloved. Something about it touches me and I’ve wanted to photograph it for a while. It’s quite creepy in some ways; from our own house we often hear muffled thumps and bangs that definitely sound as if they’re coming from the empty house. I’ve got no doubt there are mice and birds and quite probably rats inside it, and it seems likely these are the source of some of these strange noises. Still, being round there with one eye shut and the other to the viewfinder, I feel slightly ill at ease.
I haven’t been able to make my mind up how to photograph this. I knew I didn’t want the hard, sharp look of a photojournalistic approach. I wanted something that felt nostalgic, sad and possibly a little disturbing. I see this as an ongoing project and I thought I’d make a start by using my Lensbaby, with the plastic optic. I felt that the soft, slightly unfocussed look of it would give a dream-like feel, and I also wanted the gentle, faded colours and low contrast of an old photograph. These shots are pretty much straight out of the camera and I’m not totally happy with them, but I can’t think at the moment how else to approach things. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments.
I’ve been going through rather a tough time lately, with some childhood unhappinesses resurfacing, and I think that may explain my attraction to this sad, neglected building. It’s one of the few times I’ve been able to directly relate my photography to what’s in my own psyche. I’m not sure if this helps things along, or perhaps gets in the way. These are quite different from my usual style – they’re not striking or attractive or colourful. They’re much quieter and less immediately interesting. I feel a little self-conscious about them because of this, but this simply feels like something I have to do.