Noel Bowler: The Joy

  April –
May 2005

Image by Noel Bowler from the exhibition The Joy at Gallery of Photography Ireland, April 28 – May 29 2005.

Noel Bowler’s The Joy is a quietly powerful exploration of the everyday aspects of the lives of men in Mountjoy Prison.

Whereas traditional black and white documentary photographic practice has tended to emphasise the oppressive, dramatic nature of the prison setting, Bowler’s colour images provide a fresh insight into prison life by showing us the ordinariness of the prisoners’ existence.

As Fintan O’Toole writes in the ‘Irish Arts Review’, “Noel Bowler’s Mountjoy pictures can be seen as a deliberate disavowal of that tradition. In place of monumental monochrome he uses a crisp, sharp-edged colour that emphasises the drab institutional hues of the interior: the dull white walls of the visiting room, the sludge-like greenish yellow of the cell doors, the murky grey and buff of the long corridors, the mortuary black of the scrub floors. There is nothing epic or anti-heroic about the spaces he sees, just the dull, antiseptic pallor of a place designed for boredom.”

In making this work, Bowler has sought at all times to be mindful of the concerns of the individuals portrayed. With permission from the governors, he was granted access to the prison. For over two years he spent time building relationships with the inmates and officers, closely observing and sharing in their daily routines. The resulting images convey the mundane reality of ‘doing time’.

About the Artist

Noel Bowler was born in Dublin in 1978. He studied photography in Dublin and recently graduated from the University of Wales College in Newport, with a BA Hons in Documentary Photography. In 2004 Noel was chosen from a panel of leading young Irish artists to receive the Gallery of Photography’s Development Bursary.

Gallery Talk

Noel Bowler in conversation with John Longergan, Governor of Mountjoy Prison on Wednesday, May 4th at 1pm in the Gallery of

Photography. Admission is free but places are limited.

Press Information

To arrange an interview with the artist, or for further information, please e-mail;

Noel Bowler and the Gallery of Photography wish to thank the staff and inmates of Mountjoy Prison for their generous support and assistance with this project.