“Haunting can be construed as a failed mourning. It is about refusing to give up the ghost or – and this can sometimes amount to the same thing – the refusal of the ghost to give up on us.”
Mark Fisher’s Ghost of My Life was possibly the last book I read before we entered lockdown restrictions. His work on depression, hauntology and lost futures left a lasting impression. Turning 30, changing jobs, dealing with burnout and struggling to come to terms with the consequences of actions taken throughout my 20’s I was worried about what the future would hold. It pushed me down a road of examining my own thoughts of lost futures, of what could have been.
Almost a year on, a work colleague shared a story along similar lines. Listening to a Joe Rogan podcast they said that the actor, writer and comic Dave Chappelle shared his thoughts on lockdown and mental health. Apparently Chappelle proposed that many people are struggling due to being locked down, stuck inside forced to face their life decisions.
The Cambridge Dictionary describes the phrase “give up the ghost”, as “to stop trying to do something because you know you will not succeed”. The desire to give up and go into hiding. What happens when we can’t give up the ghost? What if the ghost of what could have been refuses to give up on us. What if it lingers and haunts our every thought and move as we try to push against the walls of the place we once called home and is now for many, also a workplace and even a school.
Lock down has forced us to confront many of our own ghosts, the more we try to give them up, the more they cling on, tempting us with what our future could have been but in truth was never likely. Last summer, trying to escape my own ghosts, I armed myself with a multipack of disposable cameras and set off to document the city around me.
Unsure as to what I was wanting to document, or where I wanted to go I was drawn to places that seemed old, forgotten, places that hinted at a previous life. Looking back on the images captured that week, they look and feel haunted. I found out later that the film in the disposable cameras was out of date, giving many a hazy or nostalgic warm glow.
Nostalgia, a feeling of pleasure and also slight sadness when you think about things that happened in the past. The word itself was coined by a 17th century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. Locked in our homes, unable to escape our fears and anxieties where then do we search for our nostalgia?
Places we lived and visited as a kid, the games we played with friends, where we went to school, our first place of work. We are currently prevented access to many of the places where we experienced some of our fondest memories, now imagine they no longer exist.
Glasgow is a city dominated by the scars left by waves of migration and regeneration. Walking along the river we can still see the ongoing battle of a city fighting the ghosts of its industrial past. Docks and shipyards have been replaced by hotels, conference centre’s, office blocks and call centres.
Venture north from the river and vast swathes of the city remains pockmarked with the footprint of demolished housing schemes. Originally built to house the city’s workers who had outgrown inner city tenement areas, empty roads and streets remain like cages, spiritually containing the ghosts of forgotten and demolished communities.
Almost every generation who have called Glasgow home, have faced the same cycle of displacement, anxiety and nostalgia for places that may no longer exist. I set out to escape my own fears. I found a city that felt like it is still struggling to come to terms with its own past, its population forced to face the decisions taken by it’s politicians and town planners, frozen by anxiety, nostalgic for places and people that have been cleansed from its landscape, a city haunted by its lost futures.
Blog and Photography by Sean Baillie