Prospect Cottage

“Prospect Cottage is the last of a long line of “escape houses” I started building as a child at the end of the garden.” Artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s (1942-1994) Dungeness home is instantly recognisable: a cottage composed of black wood panels offset by its vibrant yellow frames. The traditional fisherman’s cottage was bought by Jarman in 1986, becoming a workspace and sanctuary for him and actor Keith Collins (1966-2018), until the artist’s death. In 2018, the photographer Gilbert McCarragher, a friend and neighbour, was tasked with creating a visual record of the space: an artwork in its own right. The resulting Thames & Hudson book grants us entry, through words and photographs, into Jarman and Collins’ life.

The home is perfectly preserved, providing viewers an unfettered access as shots unfold room by room. Collins kept Jarman’s desk as it had been left, and, in one shot, sunlight shines through a neat grid of square windows to brighten the filmmaker’s space and its array of carefully arranged items. There’s a miniature lead house, a chequebook, a magnifying glass and an assortment of sharpened pencils. This self described “Spring Room” was attributed by Jarman as his “writing room and bedroom.” McCarragher writes, “What had always struck me about the Spring room was its darkness. Of course, the brighter it was outside, the harder it was to see inside. This had always felt like a room that was reluctant to be seen, where something was always hidden from view.” Space is imbued with desire, personality and secrets. A yellow panelled window becomes a device to break up the world into “smaller, intimate moments.” Indeed, it feels bittersweet to witness such a personal and intimate workspace without the person at its heart.

In the Garden Room we glimpse fig trees and overflowing boxes of stones sat alongside bee keeper outfits and giant cacti. In the Bedroom, McCarragher, trepidatiously tiptoes between Jarman’s Black Paintings, mixed-media assemblages and a large wooden throne used for the artist’s 1986 film Caravaggio. Prospect’s bathroom is overrun with several, large found driftwood constructions attached to the walls, resulting in a tapestry like appearance. The studio, meanwhile, is replete with dried out paintbrushes, stacks of overalls and collected shingles. We’re reminded of the richness and variety of mediums available to the artist, emblematised in an oeuvre of four decades of queer and counterculture history. Reinforced is the idea of an artist who worked with the physical weight of living, but also the earth’s materials and its ever-flowing inspirations. “All colour smells of turpentine and rich linseed oil pressed from the pale blue flax seeds. Local colour from coloured fields. The cricket bat dipped with the brush,” Jarman wrote in Chroma (1994).

The book culminates in the most intimate chapter of the book, Candle. These photos were taken after McCarragher “stopped for a moment and enjoyed the house for what it was: a home.” A still from Jarman’s The Angelic Conversation (1985) is frozen on the TV whilst rays of warm light stream through an open door. The photographer imagines the daily lives of Jarman and Collins, their routines played out against the hum of music and the tumble of the washing machine. We’re continuously shown the tender notes and writing they crafted and left out for each other, from the poetry of John Donne, to a quick scribble explaining a fishing trip and a subsequent nap. This photobook is light and simultaneously grounding, offering up an intimate access to the legendary filmmaker’s “final and most complete work of art,” as framed by art historian Frances Borzello. Throughout, McCarragher gives attention to the belongings and memories here, whilst understanding that he can never truly know the space as well as the people who called it home.

Prospect Cottage: Derek Jarman’s House |

Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh and Chloe Elliott

Image Credits:

©All images courtesy of Gilbert McCarragher and Thames & Hudson.