Johnny Savage’s Fallout series takes us on an unusual and unpredictable journey. I refrain from using the word adventure as, while the surprising elements associated with one are present, the sense of optimism and excitement that accompanies such a description is not. It is hard to be positive about Savage’s subject matter though. The housing crisis in Ireland affected millions and continues to do so half a decade after the property bubble burst, resulting in a continued rise in arrears.
The images of Ireland that Savage present are ghostly fragments of a world that once was. Windows and reflections cut through the empty landscapes, arising like portals to another world. They disappear in a flash as we wiz by, but reoccur in different iterations over and over; never quite long enough for us to pass through or even get a good look inside.
I caught up with Savage to talk about his project and his intentions in creating the work.
James Brown: Was there anything in particular that prompted you to make work about the Irish housing crisis?
Johnny Savage: I wanted to make a body of work that reflected the wider atmosphere of disillusionment and loss in Ireland and I was drawn to the landscape and these empty buildings. I felt they were a type of visual metaphor for where we find ourselves today; they appear to be in limbo, in an uncertain state. To me they look like ruins from another time, a part of history that continues to haunt us.
JB: To what degree were you aware of the housing crisis when you started the project?
JS: Everybody in Ireland is aware of the crisis and has been affected by it in some way. Beyond the crisis and all the problems that come with it, there is a sense that more than just property values were lost, that Ireland sold out in some way and this affects everybody and will for generations to come. The title Fallout alludes to this idea of consequence.
JB: There is, without question, something of the uncanny in the images that you have created. Was this something that you were initially aiming for, or did it develop out of the act of photographing?
JS: I think it was a bit of both. I was initially drawn to these places as I just found them fascinating, like abandoned film sets, there is a quiet and eerie atmosphere to them. I started shooting a lot, searching out a way to convey this atmosphere in a way that also spoke about the wider ideas. When I first made a photograph that merged an empty interior with the landscape I was struck by the whole idea of illusion and the concept kind of opened up from there; the illusion of wealth, the façade of the boom and the haunted landscape. As I developed this idea further another world emerged where any sense of place was distorted, where it was difficult to decipher reality from illusion.
JB: Do you consider the project to be complete, or is it something that you plan on expanding?
JS: I see Fallout as one part of a wider ongoing body of work. I am starting to think about new approaches and research for a new project that will follow, not necessarily in Ireland or about the crisis but further exploring our relationship with our surroundings. I am interested in various aspects of the landscape and the role it plays in who and what we are.
You can see more of Savage's work on his website here.
— James Brown