He started photography in his teens, and at the age of 16 he left school and went on a three-month journey around Ireland. These travels resulted in his first book, 32 Counties.
In 1992, Wylie became a nominee of the Magnum Photos agency and he became a full member in 1998, one of the youngest ever members of Magnum. Since 2000, Wylie has completed various photographic and film projects exploring the religious identity, history, and the concept of territory, especially in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, post-ceasefire. His work has expanded over the years, and concentrates on the Architecture of Conflict. Notable works include The Maze prison in Northern Ireland, British Watchtowers, and the Green Zone in Baghdad. He has also worked in China, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Israel, and Yugoslavia.
In 2010 he was a shortlisted artist for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. His photographic work has been included in exhibitions at venues including the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Wylie is father to three sons.
- 32 Counties: Photographs of Ireland, UK: Secker & Warburg, 1989. ISBN 978-0-436-10256-1. UK: Secker & Warburg, 1990. ISBN 978-0-436-10254-7
- The Dispossessed, with Robert McLiam Wilson, UK: Picador, 1990.
- Populations in Danger, UK: J. Libbey, 1992.
- Ireland: Singular Images, UK: Andre Deutsch, 1994. ISBN 978-0-233-98899-3
- Notes from Moscow, Transatlantic, 1994. ISBN 978-0-330-33032-9. UK: Picador, 2004.
- Losing Ground, UK, 1998.
- The Maze, Granta, UK, 2004. ISBN 978-1-86207-684-6. Steidl Photography International, 2010. ISBN 978-3-86521-907-7
- British Watchtowers, Steidl, 2007. ISBN 978-3-86521-499-7
- Scrapbook, with Timothy Prus, Steidl, 2009. ISBN 978-3-86521-910-7
- Outposts, Steidl, 2011. ISBN: 978-3-86930-321-5
- 2003, Jesus Comes To London, Channel 4/October Films
- 2002, The Train, Channel 4/October Films. (BAFTA: Best New Director for Factual Film)
- 2002, YoYo, Channel 4/October Films
- Donovan Wylie at Magnum Photos
- Photography Blog article on Wylie
- Telegraph article on Deutsch Borse Photography prize
- Guardian article on The Maze photographs
- British Journal of Photography interview
- Euro Visions profile
- Donovan Wylie talks about his OUTPOSTS series of work