Lonely Planet Writer

Former Buzzcocks drummer captures beautiful pictures of abandoned Outer Hebrides homes

A stunning collection of photographs featuring uninhabited homes in the Western Isles of Scotland are being showcased in a new exhibition by John Maher, former drummer of the punk band Buzzcocks.

John Maher Outer Hebrides Photography
“Bedroom and Chapel” from “Nobody’s Home”. It features the only house on the now uninhabited island of Ensay. The photo looks across to Ensay Chapel from one of the upstairs bedrooms of the house. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

The “Nobody’s Home” exhibition features the decay of man-made objects, structures and houses set against the contrasting natural beauty of the Hebridian landscape and sky. It is being showcased at the Lighthouse, Glasgow’s Centre for Design and Architecture as part of the, “Say Hello to Architecture” programme.

Tin and Stone John Maher Nobody's Home Exhibition
“Tin and Stone”. Taken at night, the glow of burning peat can be seen over the hill on the right hand side of the frame. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

Many of the photographs in the series were taken at night time and feature the natural light of the moon and stars blended with John’s own lighting techniques to emphasise the items left in buildings, as well as vehicles and boats that are scattered around the countryside. In some instances the photographer returned during daylight hours to shoot the interiors of the abandoned croft houses he had visited the night before.

Green Room - North Uist John Maher Nobody's Home
“Green Room”. A sheep lies on top of 12″ vinyl records. One year after this photo was taken, the roof collapsed, burying everything under timbers and roof slates.
Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk
Nobody's Home John Maher
“Nobody’s Home”. A strikingly symmetrical abandoned house. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

While the collection of photographs began as a way to document the hauntingly beautiful abandoned houses of the area, they have led to a wider debate and even initiated change. As a result of seeing the images, the Western Isle’s housing body, Tighean Innse Gall in conjunction with the Carnegie Trust have set a motion in place to renovate some of the derelict properties. A donation of £50,000 from the William Grant foundation has also been secured to launch the project.

TV Set John Maher Nobody's Home
“TV Set”. The screen of an old black and white television has survived intact while the walls and ceilings crumble around it. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk
Parallel Lines John Maher
“Parallel Lines”. One of the first houses that John entered, he discovered many personal items had been left behind by the former occupants. A brightly coloured interior marks a stark contrast to the often drab exteriors. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

“Taking this exhibition to Glasgow is the realisation of a long-held ambition. What started out as a personal project, documenting abandoned croft houses in the Outer Hebrides, has had an unexpected side effect. As a result of displaying my photographs, there’s now a real possibility of seeing at least one of the properties becoming a family home once again. Putting on this exhibition in collaboration with the team at Architecture and Design Scotland means Nobody’s Home is about more than pictures on a gallery wall. It shows that looking through a lens to the past can help shape things in the future,” John said.

Peat Fire John Maher Nobody's Home
“Peat Fire”. Captured one night in March 2013, on the east coast of Harris. Muir-burning is an annual practice carried out by many of the islands crofters, usually between early March and mid-April. It burns off rough hill grasses and mature heather to improve grazing for sheep. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

Speaking about the collection, Morag Bain of Architecture and Design Scotland said, “We are delighted to host the exhibition as part of our programme. Say Hello to Architecture is our contribution to the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design and our aim is to get the public involved with the architecture and places around them. John’s photographs will provoke discussions about what makes a home and how abandoned places can be revived to create housing and contribute to vibrant communities”.

The Dog, the Cat and the Bird John Maher Nobody's Home Photography
“The Dog, The Cat & The Bird”. Plastic framed cat and dog portraits are accompanied by the skeleton of a small bird on the floor. The two mugs on the mantelpiece commemorate the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk
Waiting Room John Maher
“Waiting Room”. John uses a mix of digital and film cameras to make his photographs. This was shot on a 1960s large format film camera. Wood effect wallpaper peeling away reveals the real thing underneath. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

John Maher joined the punk band Buzzcocks at 16 years old, which found worldwide acclaim with hits like “Ever Fallen in Love” before disbanding in 1981.

Blue Chair John Maher Nobody's Home
“Blue Chair”. Last occupied in the 1990s, like most of the houses John photographs this one still contains many of the personal belongings of its former occupants. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk
Rust in Peace John Maher
“Rust in Peace”. One of the simplest and least expensive forms of construction, the gable ends of this house are made from stone blocks while the front and rear walls are corrugated tin. This house is still standing on the Isle of Scalpay. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

John relocated from his hometown of Manchester to the Isle of Harris in 2002. He has been photographing abandoned croft houses in the region for the past six years.

No Job Too Small - Isle of Harris John Maher
“no Job Too Small”. A six minute exposure under the light of a full moon. The lack of light pollution is a major factor in many of John’s night photos. Image by John Maher / The Flying Monk

The “Nobody’s Home” exhibition is due to run until the end of August at the Lighthouse, Glasgow. More of John Maher’s work can be seen on his website, The Flying Monk.