An exhibition of black-and-white photographs by Willie Doherty is currently on display at Matt’s Gallery, London. Taken from 1985-1992, the images reflect Doherty’s ongoing concerns: territory, land ownership, and borders, both political and geographical.
Doherty was born in 1959 in Derry. Much of his work draws on his own experience of the ‘Troubles’ and the emergence of the Irish Republican movement as a political force in negotiations with the British government. In 1972, aged 12-years-old, he witnessed the killing of 13 people on Bloody Sunday. The media’s subsequent denial of the event had a profound effect on the young Doherty: ‘It was an incredibly influential experience, and it was important for me because it was very clearly crystallized that all those photographs were unreliable’.
Throughout his career Doherty has questioned the reliability of images and the way in which we interpret them. Layering text over images, he demonstrates the effect language can have on our understanding of a picture. In Same Difference (1990) Doherty projected a photograph of a woman onto a wall. Different words were placed over her face, each one suggesting a new identity or personality: ‘deranged’, ‘loyal’, ‘ruthless’, ‘murderer’.
Doherty is perhaps best known for his video work, including Turner Prize nominated The Only Good One is a Dead One (1993). Yet it would be a shame for these earlier images to be overlooked. A selection of seldom exhibited works, the show at Matt’s Gallery is a rare opportunity to see these photographs on display.
Willie Doherty: Photo/text/85/92 is on display at Matt’s Gallery, London until 27 May 2012. For more information visit www.mattsgallery.org