Oliver Smith, Photographer – Looking for Ghosts | Piquant Artist Series

Oliver Smith, Photographer – Looking for Ghosts | Piquant Artist Series

January 12, 2020 2 By William Hollis


So I took photographs in nightclubs for four or five years in Dublin. That was before I did the MFA in photography, in Belfast. I wanted to do the MFA to do serious photography, to do something really important, or something grand. Everybody just thought my nightclub
photographs were so fascinating, and to me they were just things I saw everyday, all the time. Same people, same clubs. I hadn’t really presented them, or ever seen them in a fine art context. They were just cheap, quick snaps, for a disposable medium. The wonderful group of peers that I gained on the MFA, encouraged me to explore that area, and to do those kind of photos, but do them better. So, landscapes and portraits was what I decided, and landscapes of places where where raves happened, illegal raves. I had to find out about them, I had to get to them. I had to stay up all night, and at dawn, I had to make myself go and take
photographs of people, which was surprisingly
easy most of the time. And I just thought that was an important thing for me to do; because I was photographing in nightclubs all the time, I needed to photograph what was the opposite of a nightclub. So these photographs are are of when the night’s over, and when people are about to leave, and people are on their way home. And there’s a there’s kind of a sadness, or an emptiness in the landscapes, with the fallen down tents, and the faces. I felt all the photographs are a photograph of my sentiments about it, and that end of the night feeling when the party’s over, and the sadness of going back to reality. There’s part of me getting away
from the club photography as well, and the whole commercial element to it, that didn’t quite fit with what in my head was a beautiful, nearly spiritual community, and this dancing all night long, and the freedom of that. That is important to me. Club culture in Ireland was something that I wanted to nearly rebel against, or rebel against my own work, or react to the work that I had been doing, by taking similar photographs of events and people, that I felt were doing things for less commercial reasons and for more honourable outcomes. When I started taking nightclub photos, the country was really in recession. It was in 2010, and the big nights out were Wednesday night and Thursday night, and of course that would go into Friday night and Saturday night, and Sunday day, and you wouldn’t need to wake up on Monday, because people weren’t working, and I wasn’t working, and it was kind of a mad time. I had my camera at a rave, at an after-party, and somebody just
comes up to me and says “Sorry, are you looking for ghosts?” referring to pills, and I just thought, yeah, I kind of am. I’m looking for ghosts of people, or the spiritual element, or intangible part of people’s souls that that I was trying to photograph, and I was struggling to photograph, because the situation was just wild, and fun. But I was looking for ghosts alright.