Looking back at Hellingly: Part Three – Chairs

IMG_1509The Rec Room, Lounge Area at Hellingly Asylum, 2009
 Photography and words by Billie Jenkins

So many of the pictures I took at Hellingly were of chairs, many more than are shown here. As I went through the images I was trying to pinpoint why exactly I had seen so much value in capturing the chairs dotting the asylum, and why they still felt so significant. I believe the presence of an empty chair plays a huge role in the photography of derelict buildings because it offers a subject, not just as a visual point of reference, but of a person. It builds in the presence of a past living, breathing resident who is no longer able to exist in that context. The Rec Room’s destruction is given a sense of wild playfulness by the presence of a sofa, rather than sad desolation. The grandeur of the yellow lounge chair is resilient to it’s grim surroundings, a feeling we could perceive of past inhabitents. The formality of the Assembly Chairs provides order in chaos. It’s sad that Hellingly has now been destroyed for new spaces to take its place, but I like to see this chair collection as something which marks the traces of the community that once was into a new period for the area.

IMG_1593Assembly Line, In the Grand Hall
IMG_1671Loungewear, Another recreation room
IMG_1621Show your best side, At the salon
IMG_1613Patiently waiting, In the entrance lobby
IMG_1428Topsy, A chair in the corridor
IMG_1397Please clench your teeth, Medical Chair
IMG_1684Balanced, The last chair for today

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