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Donovan Wylie

Born Year, Month, Day (Location)

Utilizing a combination of conceptual and typological approaches, Wylie’s work interrogates the conceptual architecture of power, containment and war.

Over the last fifteen years, Wylie has created significant bodies of work that focus on the transient nature of contemporary military architecture.

Wylie first came to critical acclaim with Maze (Granta, 2004), a series of 80 photographs depicting the Maze prison, a site synonymous with the conflict that gripped Northern Ireland from the 1970s through the late 1990s. Wylie spent a year engaging with the prison, which had been emptied but maintained in a state of readiness in the event of a collapse in the peace process. Through a systematic representation of the building’s structural monotony, the resulting work both describes the physical structure of the Maze and communicates the psychological impact of being contained within the site. In 2007, Wylie returned to the Maze during its demolition and subsequently published a second volume (Steidl, 2009). Wylie’s Maze now stands in a complicated relationship to the physical Maze, acting simultaneously as a record, an act of deletion, and a rewriting. Maze was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize for the most significant contribution to the medium in Europe and has been widely exhibited in both photographic and architectural settings, including at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Venice Architecture Biennale.1

Bio & Career

Produced from 2005-14, Wylie’s Tower Series examines the mostly invisible architectures that weaves the presence of conflict into the fabric of daily life. The project spans three locations linked by longstanding imperial imperatives – Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and the Canadian Arctic – and works across three distinct landscape idioms – the pastoral, the sublime, and the romantic – to interrogate the relationship of looking to domination and power. The photographs in The Tower Series are about what cannot be seen, and about the paranoia, loneliness, and isolation that haunt our efforts to see it. The individual components of the Tower Series (British Watchtowers, Outposts, and North Warning System, each published by Steidl) have been shown throughout Europe and North America and were first presented together at the Imperial War Museum, London, in 2014.

In 2010 Wylie was awarded the National Media Museum’s Fellowship Award (UK), and in 2013 he became Doran Artist in Residence at the Yale University Art Gallery. His next project, a metaphorical reading of the construction of highway interchanges in the context of American ‘promised land’ narratives, will be published and exhibited at Yale in 2016-17.

In addition to photography, Wylie often works in film. He received a BAFTA in 2002 for The Train.

Wylie lives in his native Belfast and is a Reader in Photography at Ulster University, where together with colleagues in the Architecture Department he is engaged in a long term examination of the impact of conflict on the urban environment. He has published 12 monographs and his work is featured in numerous public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Centre George Pompidou, Paris; the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; the National Gallery of Canada; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.2


Solo exhibitions

  • 2017, Yale Art Gallery, New haven, USA
  • 2014, Imperial War Museum, London, United Kingdom
  • 2013, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, Canada
  • 2012, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
  • 2011, National Media Museum, Bradford, United Kingdom
  • 2009, BX Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 2006, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2005, Musee International de la Croix- Rouge, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2005, The Santa Cruz Museum, Toledo, Spain
  • 2004, Contemporary Art Institute, Brighton, United Kingdom
  • 2004, The Photographers Gallery, London
  • 2004, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • 2004, BX Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 1998, National Museum of Photography, Film, and Television, United Kingdom

Group exhibitions

  • 2014, The Spaces of Confinement, Venice Architecture Biennales, Italy
  • 2014, Postcards from America, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, USA
  • 2014, Art of The Troubles, Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland
  • 2014, Radical Transformation, Magnum Photos into the Digital Age, Harry Ransom Center
  • 2014, Arctic Exposure, Canada’s North, McMichael Museum, Ontario, Canada
  • 2013, Drone/ The Automated Image, Le Mois de la Photography, Montreal, Canada
  • 2013, Austin, Texas, USA, Trans-Territories, America Barracks, Mannheim – Ludwigshafen, Germany
  • 2013, Northern Ireland, 30 Years of Photography, The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 2013, L’Italia E Gli Italiani, Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza
  • 2011, The Long View, Gallery of Photography, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2011, New Topography of War, Le Bal, Paris, France
  • 2011, Look 11, British Watchtowers, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • 2010, Duestsch Borse Photography Award, The Photographers Gallery, London, UK
  • 2010, The Land Between Us, Power Place and Dislocation, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • 2010, Duestch Borse Photography Award, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Germany
  • 2010, Magnum – Shifting Media, Robert Capa to Donovan Wylie, Berlin, Germany
  • 2008, The Image to Come, CCCB, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2008, New Typologies, New York Photography Festival, USA
  • 2008, The Image to Come, Cinematheque Francaise, Paris, France
  • 2006, 360 Degree Climate Change, United Nations, New York, USA
  • 2006, Magnum Ireland, Omeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 2006, Magnum Ireland, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2005, Euro Visions, The New Europeans, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
  • 2005, Euro Visions, Triennale, Milan, Italy
  • 2005, Euro Visions, Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland
  • 2005, Euro Visions, Ludwig Museum of Cintemporary Art, Budapest, Hungary
  • 2005, Spells of Childhood, Tampere Art Museum, Finland
  • 2005, Euro Visions, Musees royaux des Beaux Arts, Brussells, Belgium
  • 2003, Stepping In, Stepping Out, Contemporary Documentary Photography, V&A, London, United Kingdom
  • 2003, Magnum Degrees, Barbican Centre, London
  • 2003, Global Detail, Noorderlicht, Netherlands
  • 2001, Postfuhramt, Berlin, Germany
  • 1999, Album/Internal Conflicts, Donovan Wylie/Willie Doherty, Saison Photographique D’Octeville, France
  • 1998, British Looking at The British, Rencontres Arles, France


External links & References

  1. “About” Donovan Wylie
  2. “About” Donovan Wylie