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Settlement

Throughout Ireland’s so called ‘Celtic Tiger’ years the country witnessed dramatic economic and cultural changes and unprecedented growth. This new body of photographic and video work documents the effects of economic growth on both the shifting population demographic and the physical environment. In the past 15 years a new multicultural society has emerged. The population has shifted from a 99% indigenous monoculture to 10% “new Irish”. Migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees from more than one hundred countries migrated to Ireland during the boom years in search of a better life. This series explores the effects of economic growth on the natural landscape. Even in the smallest rural villages and towns private developers and credit rich individuals availed of favorable government tax breaks and laissez faire planning legislation to hastily build domestic housing estates for quick profit and to meet the demands of a growing population. All the photographs in this series are produced between sunset and sunrise, partly to avoid any potential confrontation with security guards who regularly patrol these sites during the daytime. The combination of darkness, artificial light and long exposures draws attention to the effects of development on the natural environment by reducing each photograph to the key elements of land and manmade constructions. The natural landscape has been disturbed by earth moving machinery generating artificial hills and valleys in front of half built or unoccupied dwellings. Slowly, nature has started to reclaim the exposed landscape. With the collapse of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy, more than fifteen years of growth suddenly ended. The banks foreclosed on developer’s loans, all building projects across the state ceased. This resulted in ‘ghost estates’ and unfinished ‘one off houses’ standing isolated in former picture postcard landscapes. During 2010 the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis estimated that there are currently more than 620 ‘ghost estates’ and thousands of empty houses throughout Ireland. These eerie ‘monuments’ are a testament to the end of Ireland’s gold rush and the resulting cost of unregulated growth.

Read Haunted Landscapes, by Cian O’ Callaghan, published in Source – Feb, 2011

Fintan O’Toole review in The Irish Times

Frank McDonald review in The Irish Times

Gallery tour YouTube

27.11.11. AlJazeera news feature on the Settlement exhibition: View it here

More Reviews and Press

Editioned prints from this series are available from here

A dedicated Settlement exhibition website is available here