Freedom

Donovan Wylie was born in Belfast and is based in London. His book British Watchtowers is published by Steidl. The exhibition of the same name is at Belfast Exposed Photography from 25 May to 27 July 2007.

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The last watch

Observation, whether by the human eye, or the technical eye of a surveillance camera, requires an architectural structure that elevates the viewer into a position of command. The system of Iron Age hill forts, built across Britain from around 500 BC, used natural promontories to survey the surrounding landscape. Two thousand years later, the British army used a similar system of watchtowers to survey the territories of Northern Ireland, and to observe the actions of the local people under their occupation.

The lines of sight from the watchtowers generated a kind of virtual environment enveloping the border region. These hi-tech towers, constructed in the mid-1980s, primarily in the mountainous border region of South Armagh, were landmarks in the thirty-year conflict in and over Northern Ireland, euphemistically called "The Troubles". The Towers were finally demolished between 2003 and 2007 as part of the British government's "Demilitarization" programme for Northern Ireland.

Donovan Wylie photographed these towers working entirely from military helicopter, creating a systematic survey of their perspectives and positions within the landscape.

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