© Donovan Wylie/Magnum Photos

Northern Ireland. The Maze Prison. Chapel, Phase 3, 2003
© Donovan Wylie/Magnum Photos

Donovan Wylie
The Maze

For nearly 30 years, The Maze Prison, near the small town of Maze, 10 miles outside of Belfast, played a unique role in Northern Ireland's troubles. It became a microcosm of the struggle between Loyalists and Rebublicans, with prisoners segregated according to their political beliefs and membership of paramilitary organisations. The scene of violent protests, hunger strikes and mass escapes, The Maze housed, at its peak in the 1980s, some 1,700 prisoners. In September 2000, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the prison was closed; its future is still being debated.

Donovan Wylie, is the first photographer to have been granted unlimited access to this historic prison complex, which has never been photographed so extensively before. Over the period of a year, Wylie spent more than 100 days there. The result is an extraordinary body of work that not only records the imposing physical structure of The Maze, but also imparts a startling real and psychological sense of being inside it.

Wylie says "From the first visit I made I knew what it was I wanted to convey: scale and repetition. I wanted to create long sequences of pictures that would replicate my experience of walking through… At times I felt I was making a film rather than a photo-book. It is no coincidence that the book has a sense of animation about it".

The photographs indeed take you on a journey through a labyrinth of sterile endless spaces, creating a sense of disorientation, almost panic, as you struggle to locate yourself amongst the frightening lack of detail. The experience feels actual and the prison, rather than appearing as a relic, has a pivotal sensibility as if waiting poised. There is no resolution here either artistically or politically, but rather a sense of continuation, of spiral that aptly fits the complex's name.

This body of work is a Magnum Touring Exhibition, originated by Belfast Exposed Photography with financial support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, National Lottery Fund.

Exhibition: 11 June - 1 August 2004
Gallery hours: Mon-Sat 11 am - 6 pm, Sun noon - 6 pm

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