Martin Cregg (b.1976) is an Irish
photographer who‟s approach adapts certain
aspects of Conceptual Art and Minimalism,
as well as a self-reflexive edge to the paradigm
of documentary photography.
His extensive body of work and first book -
„Midlands‟ was first shown in the Gallery of
Photography, Dublin in 2008 and has since
been exhibited in New Zealand and as part of
the „Home Economics‟ group show in Aarles
This presentation is a sample of the
„Midlands‟ project as well as some more
Martin Cregg‟s book „Midlands‟ (2009)
charted the construction of the Irish
midlands region from the height of the
economic boom in the early part of the
decade, to the economic insecurities and
uncertainties of recession times. The book
is an extensive project which, over a five
year period, documented the space that
the „urbanization‟ of rural Ireland created -
factories that are built due to tax
incentives, homogeneous housing estates,
warehouses, Industrial estates; which, to
this date, lay empty and uninhabited due
to the changing economic climate. On a
broader socio-economic note, these are
testament to the insanity of developers and
planners over the last few years.
“The framework has been laid down, but is
largely dormant – it‟s factories solicit the hum
of productivity; its empty estates seek claim to
Creggs „Midlands‟ is a grey area – a non-
specified geographical entity, under
constant construction and re-definition. It
focuses on the concept of what „the
midlands‟ is – non-defined, non-
“I am interested in topographical studies, of course; but, I find that the spaces I am focusing on are
interesting in the context of their place in rural Ireland. I find that I am working to „re-negotiate‟
the archetype representation of Irish landscape, as well as deal with the transformation of the
landscape and its values which occurred during the „Celtic Tiger‟ period. With this in mind, you
can see, the work has gone a bit more „abstract‟ - further and further away from showing any rural
at all! Instead the rural is denied, the spaces depicted are grey areas - homogeneous, un-defined,
non-expressive, non-organic, non-geographic, non-places.” – Martin Cregg, July 2008
Suspended State (August 2008 - )
My work has charted the topographical changes which have occurred in the last 6 years – from
the height of economic activity (and its effects on the landscape) right through to recession times
(and the visible effects it has had on landscape). „Suspended State‟ is an expansion of a previous
project – „Midlands‟. It deals with the current economic climate in Ireland - its people, its
landscapes left in a state of suspension due to the global recesssion.
If „Midlands‟ was about construction, then „Suspended State‟ is about that construction in a state of
The places that I am concentrating on are recent constructions – factories, industrial
estates, housing estates which have been built (or in some cases „almost‟ built) and
abandoned. They are uncertain spaces in a state of neglect. They are spaces which held a
thrusting activity up to the point of the recession, but have now got an aura of
hopelessness and desolation. They are testament to the economic times in which we live –
an era of uncertainty, despondency and relinquished pursuits.
There is overall a sense of abandonment – this is reinforced throughout the work.
The approach is similar to the approach to the Midlands – however the flat, formal
methodology is cast aside. The approach of „Suspended State‟ needed to be changed to
reflect this. Here, the use of light is important, to reinforce the idea that nature is
reclaiming the spaces. While the underlying context to the work is economic, social and
historical, it also signifies the eternal cycle of construction and destruction. Depicting the
earth as almost excavation - where organic cycles are disrupted by society and then return.
The shattered surfaces and forms of the landscape can signify the discontinuities of recent
history – the landscape in a suspended state, anxiously awaiting a time of stability.
I am interested in conceptual art, adding a bit of performance and reflexivity to the documentary
There is an almost „forensic‟ approach to landscape - connected to the idea of „fact
finding‟, „exploration‟ of an alien environment to the approach (I even suited-up in a
forensic outfit to see how it would change the approach). I was scrutanizing and exploring
the anonymity of the man-made, abandoned and neglected environment. I treated this
like an alien environment, which the idea of a loss of sense of scale in some of the images
creating a more abstract feel to the approach. The idea of adding a bit more „reflexivity‟ -
revealing the construction of the image (dropping in the tripod, etc) - is designed to maybe
retrieve that sense of scale and point to the fact that it is documentary (or maybe to
reclaim that space as a more psychological space?)
Course (Sept 2009 - )
Course is a work on progress. I am still grappling with how to conceptualize it, so it is still pretty
vague at this point.
I teach History and Theory of Photography, and, I suppose, this work is about my experience of
teaching this. At the beginning they were simple studies of the room in which photography was
taught. I had started to photograph aspects of the rooms after my own lectures. Some reference the
„topic‟ of the class I have just finished - eg. the image „After Pictorialism‟ references the Pictorialist
style, the image „Chairs After Modernism‟ reference the modernist style. So, in effect,
photographing the post-lecture chairs in a style after modernism or pictorialism, etc.
The project has started to become more and more self-reflexive. I have started to add notes,
scribbles, white board markings, which have moved the history class along – as well as notes which
have moved my project of teaching history along. My approach is to document the experience of
teaching history, through the college year, keep records, notes, ephemera, and start to piece it
together in the summer. Here is a sample of some of the work so far.
Home (working title)
Home is a word that suggests a direction, a place, an origin and a longing to return.
This is an ongoing project which has a more personal and emotive motivation. It is about the
relationship between myself and my background, my sense of self, my memories of home and my
search to find my place within it at this point of my life. Most of the work is taken in my home in
rural Ireland – where I grew up; some are taken in Boston – where a large „parallel‟ part of my
extended family live. In the images, there is a direct relationship between my role as a
photographer and my family‟s world of work (my rural background) - a delicate and uncomfortable
balancing-act between „belonging‟ and disassociation.
I find myself fully asserting a sense of self, and of trying to find a possible lost sense of self. There
is a longing to connect, or reconnect, to the place, to the land and to the family. Yet, the overriding
impression or feeling is one of „distance‟.