Donovan Wylie (b.1971)

Watchtower R21. N/W

Digital photograph

30.5cm x 41cm

Courtesy of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Born in Belfast in 1971, Donovan Wylie discovered photography at an early age. He left school at sixteen, and embarked on a three-month journey around Ireland that resulted in the production of his first book, 32 Counties (Secker and Warburg 1989), published while he was still a teenager.

In 1992 Wylie was invited to become a nominee of Magnum Photos and in 1998 he became a full member. Much of his work, often described as 'Archaeo-logies', has stemmed primarily to date from the political and social landscape of Northern Ireland. His book The Maze was published to international acclaim in 2004, as was British Watchtowers in 2007. In 2001 he won a BAFTA for his film The Train, and he has had solo exhibitions at the Photographers' Gallery, London, PhotoEspana, Madrid, and the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television, Bradford, England. He has participated in numerous group shows held at, among other venues, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

This work documents the ‘watchtowers’, high tech towers constructed in the mid-1980s primarily in the mountainous border regions of South Armagh, and which have come to symbolise The Troubles. The towers were demolished between 2000 and 2007 as part of the British government’s demilitarization programme for Northern Ireland. For over a year the artist photographed these towers, working entirely from an elevated position enabled by military helicopter, he created a systemic survey of the towers, their positions and perspectives within the landscapes. In a wider sense this work explores the idea of surveillance and how this is utilized within systems of power.