Art

Above image: ON(series) no. 1, 2014. Photograph © 2019 Eamonn Doyle

Few people share a relationship with Dublin like Eamonn Doyle. As a photographer, music producer, DJ and founder of the hugely influential D1 Records, his synthesis of diverse media hold up a stethoscope to the creative pulse of the city. Made in Dublin is his latest photobook, drawing together the three that preceded it as a striking visual record of Doyle’s street-level view of Dublin, showing a cosmopolitan city in the throws of transition.

Born in Dublin in 1969, Doyle has spent his entire adult life a resident of the city as well as an alumnus of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, located on the outskirts of the city, where he graduated with a diploma in photography in 1991. It was only in his mid-forties however, after he had spent fifteen years running a studio and independent record label, that Doyle revisited photography, seizing the opportunity to photograph passers-by a stone’s throw from his home in the north of the city.

So began his first compilation of work, i, released in 2014 and shot within a ten-minute walking radius from his front door. Taking Samuel Beckett’s short dramatic monologue Not I as its aesthetic and thematic premise, the book frames elderly residents of north Dublin suspended in isolation from their surroundings. Much like the Mouth of Beckett’s play, the subjects of Doyle’s lens exist in a world of their own, often shot from behind with considerable elevation so as to eliminate any references to a wider world.

Like the Mouth, whose breathless stream of consciousness recalls the tragic tale of an old lady, there is anonymity in Doyle’s images, whose subjects’ faces are either concealed or turned away from view. Beckett described the nameless lady of his play as an abstract entity, not a single person but one, “of many old crones, stumbling down the lanes, in the ditches, besides the hedgerows”. Equally, Doyle’s vision in i is guided more by a metaphysical sense of the collective, one that forgoes the individual in favour of a more comprehensive typography.

i(series) no. 7, 2013. Photograph © 2019 Eamonn Doyle

His two later works, ON (2015) and End (2016), see Doyle adopt more varied subjects, transitioning from the cinematically lit colour photographs of i to harsher monochromes, shot front-on from low angles, emphasising facial expression and architectural setting. Again, the work of Beckett provides Doyle with his ideological framework, this time his 1952 novel The Unnamable and specifically, its enduring final words that speak of an existential stoicism present throughout Beckett’s work: “You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” The same dogged resilience permeates Doyle’s images as he captures the ceaseless beating heart of the city’s multicultural residents.

End sees evidence of both styles come together for a collaborative work with long-time friends, graphic designer Niall Sweeney and artist David Donohoe. Like his previous two bodies of work, the project was largely shot between O’Connell and Parnell Street, capturing residents of all ages and backgrounds in the city that accommodates them all. These photographs, which are sometimes accompanied or embellished by the illustrations of Sweeney, deal only in fragments. A pair of legs, a section of paving, weathered faces, an unfinished building site – it is in these micro-narratives that Doyle succeeds in providing such a clear sense of the macro, of a city as an organism constituted by the outwardly insignificant and seemingly unremarkable.

Eamonn Doyle: Made in Dublin, published by Thames & Hudson, is out 2nd May 2019 to coincide with Doyle’s new exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery London, running 1st May – 15th June 2019.
The new publication features unpublished photographs and texts by Kevin Barry and Sean O’Hagan.