“That which you cannot see” – Willie Doherty


Willie Doherty also works in film, but I have chosen to look at his documentary photography work for its take on urban hinterland. He purposefully excludes people from his photography, feeling it belies them to victimhood, and instead studies the landscape.

Doherty started his career during a long period of conflict in Derry, Northern Ireland called ‘The Troubles’. He documented the in-between spaces, claiming the damage left behind through photography, in an attempt to explore how traumatic memories live on.


He responded to his terrain, and in the early 80’s, out of suspicion of surveillance he began using language in his work, to speak about something that he was not able to photograph, concerned with ‘what was visible and what was not visible’.

Willie Doherty, Loose Ends I, 2016, diptych

Loose Ends VI, 2016 diptych
What I like about the Loose Ends series, is the visual relationship between the two images in the diptych. There are slight similarities in the shapes and proportions, and are suggestive of a connection between the two, something more than just a visual connection. But then there’s a disconnect, the images are not similar enough to suggest cohesion and this feeling leads me to re-assess the image. To notice the texture, the degradation, the markers of time.

Through research I have found out that Loose Ends documents two sites of significance, one in Northern Ireland, and the other a small island off the coast. These where of significance to the Easter Rising in 1916, the armed insurrection rebelling against the English government in Ireland.

Interesting reading: Declan Long Texts

References: All images from Kerlin Gallery



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