Yvette Monahan


Yvette Monahan (b.1977) is a Dublin based Photographer who works with myths and landscape. She is interested in how a particular landscape can hold stories of what’s been and what could be.

The Time of Dreaming the World Awake was completed as part of her MFA at the University of Ulster in Belfast. This body of work won both the Portfolio Award and Slideluck Potshow at PhotoIreland in 2013. It has been exhibited in Dublin, Paris and Finland and is part of the OPW collection. Yvette has just self-published this project as a book which is available on her website.


The Thousand Year Old Boy

In 2006, a group of cavers made exciting archaeological discoveries in a cave in the Burren, a unique limestone landscape in the West of Ireland.

A poignant revelation was also made: the 3,000 year old skeleton of a child. They were able to extract DNA from these Bronze Age remains. The Archaeologists tested this DNA against 150 children from a local school. One boy was an exact match. It turns out that he lives in a house less than one mile from the cave.

This story captivated me and led me to question whether a landscape could hold the individual and collective stories of those that pass over it?

Could a landscape hold the stories of this one boy and the subsequent generations that carried his DNA? Is this rocky landscape really just compressed time, made up o fragmented lives, both organic and inorganic?

In my work, I use the writer, Tim Robinson’s idea of the ‘adequate step’, where each step in the landscape takes note of geology, biology, myths, history and politics of the landscape. It allows an allegorical landscape full of the intangible to exist. Tim's map of the Burren was also the guide that I used to mark out my own adequate step.

The thousand year old boy explores the Burren as an ancient place, a landscape that acts as a silent witness to the lives of those who have gone before, holding their memories and stories.

The title comes from an experimental music piece by Roger Doyle, an Irish composer whose music explores imagined world music – past, present and future.


Beyond The Ninth Wave

The title refers to the islands of peace and eternal life that lie beyond the ninth wave in Irish mythology. These islands, free from trauma, are thought to lie in the North Atlantic. These images are rooted in a real place but hope to bring the viewer closer to the island beyond the ninth wave.

In the 1980’s, a radical group called the Atlantis Community moved from London to Inishfree, a remote island, off the coast of Donegal in Ireland, to practise primal scream therapy. The main motivation of this therapy was to release deep-rooted imprinted pain. The predominantly female community were labelled The Screamers by the Irish media.

Beyond the ninth wave explores this wounded island landscape. The images from this series emerge from viewing this Donegal landscape as a metaphorical biography of the Screamers psyche, one where suffering has played a significant role. This thought process led to a period of experimentation as I tried to find a way to express the physicality of this traumatised landscape. On the island, I collected turf for the fire in a wheelbarrow daily. This Irish fuel source also known as peat is created from dead and decaying vegetation accumulated and compressed over millennia. One of the properties of turf is that it preserves all that is held within its environment, there is an inherent memory that is trapped within. I started exposing the turf onto darkroom paper during the daylight hours and then fixing them late at night to create Lumen prints.

When presented as triptychs, the patterns started to resemble sound waves.


The Time of Dreaming the World Awake

The Time of Dreaming the World Awake is a portrait of a place, a landscape of possibility.

This photographic body of work is based in a small region in Southern France.
I was drawn there initially by the story of Bugarach, the ‘magic’ mountain. Bugarach was somehow connected to a Mayan prophecy which indicated that the world as we know it, would end on December 21st, 2012. The prophecy claimed that this date would mark the beginning of a new era for humanity, a new and sublime future. Bugarach was to be the first bastion of this modern Arcadia.

I felt that the landscape around Bugarach had a palpable charge and I was compelled to continuously return to photograph it throughout 2012. This idea of a new ideal destiny was appealing as it offered a sense of possibility. It allowed an allegorical landscape full of portents to exist, one that was beyond the visual reality.

Nothing happened that December, which was to be expected. Despite this, I realised how important it was for me to believe in the possibility of an idyll, even if it only existed in my mind.