Inside the Archive of Irish Street Photographer Eamonn Doyle

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Eamonn Doyle, ON, Grafton Street, 2017
ON, Grafton Street, 2017© Eamonn Doyle. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

As a selection of his work goes on show at Photo London, Eamonn Doyle talks to AnOther about his journey into photography and the draw of inner city Dublin

Eamonn Doyle has come full circle. After enrolling at college to study painting in the late 1980s, Doyle found himself drawn to photography, however he ended up making music videos, which led to a long and successful career in the music industry. For two decades the he worked as a producer and ran a record label, D1 Recordings, and music festival, DEAF. One day he decided to pick up a camera again and hasn’t looked back.   

“I got fed up being an arts administrator so I packed it all in, bought myself a camera and tried to pick up where I had left off,” Doyle tells AnOther. “I first photographed in and around the north inner city of Dublin 20 years ago and over the following years with the various waves of immigrants from Africa, China, Europe and Brazil it seems like the whole world has arrived on my doorstep. There’s now a wealth of photographic subjects on the street. It’s raw and vibrant while at times it seems half-sunk in a weary pathos. I just walk out of my door and see what the city throws up at me.”

Back in 2014, shortly after he published his debut photobook, the acclaimed iDoyle spoke to AnOther about his approach to and views on street photography. Several photobooks and exhibitions later, Doyle’s star continues to rise. “I’ve mostly photographed on the street up until now because that’s where everybody is,” he says. “When you live in a city centre you have these brief encounters hundreds of times a week, but they can be loaded with quite powerful feelings of desire, disgust, or just total indifference. So the street can be a very stimulating place to be. Having said all that, my most recent book, K, was shot on the west coast of Ireland, and although the images were ‘constructed’, the main drive is the same; it’s just another way of making images.”

Doyle recently revisited his photographic self-published trilogy (i, ON and End.) for Made in Dublin, a major new book, which also includes unpublished images as well as recent photographs, he says. “We wanted to show the work in a new way and not just replicate the three books again in a single volume. As we started to work on the design, we were also working on a nine-screen installation where we show the images over a super wide panoramic display. The images are cut into strips and sometimes randomly mixed together. Looking back on it now, that seemed to feed into the design process for the Made in Dublin book.”

Experimentation has long informed Doyle’s work, and music too. He self-publishes his photobooks through his record label and in 2016 at Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival Doyle worked with friends and collaborators David Donohoe and Niall Sweeney on an immersive exhibition that featured Doyle’s photographs, Sweeney’s illustrations and a soundtrack by Donohoe. The trio has teamed up again along with writer Kevin Barry for the Made in Dublin installation, which will be on show at Somerset House during Photo London.

“In terms of the two processes there some quite strong similarities for me,” Doyle says as he ponders the parallels between music and photography. “In many ways in both it’s about recognising something when it happens. They can both be non-conceptual in the sense that I’m not approaching them with a specific goal or idea in mind. It’s a case of setting up the circumstances or situation in the hope that something interesting will happen.

“Another parallel is to do with paring away and trying to get to the essential elements of what’s going on,” he adds. “Quite often it’s really about what you choose to leave out of the frame. Similarly with music, it’s often the spaces you leave in between the notes that are just as important.”

Eamonn Doyle is on show at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London until June 15, 2019, and the installation Made in Dublin is at Photo London from May 16 – 19, 2019. Doyle will be in conversation with Niall Sweeney and Sean O’Hagan on May 18, 2019.

Made in Dublin is out now, published by Thames & Hudson.