On Saturday January 29th, I took a venture into a place I did not think I would go on a social visit. Upon meeting with two of my school friends, I decided to feed my curiosity and visit the Frankie Quinn photography exhibition that was on display in the Red Barn Gallery. This hidden wonder transported me, visually, to a time I could never truly understand unless I had been there myself. Frankie’s photography depicted scenes of violence and oppression, most of which I recognised as Northern Ireland. At first these images shocked me, but after hearing the story behind them I came to understand what their real meaning was.
Frankie Quinn was never trained to use his camera in a fancy art school. Frankie lived in an area in Belfast called the Short Strand. On his sixteenth birthday his father handed him a camera. Frankie took inspiration from the fact that his neighbourhood was undergoing major restoration work and started photographing the houses that were to be demolished in the coming weeks. Northern Ireland in the 1980s was no place to be, as rioting, violence and murder spread across the country. In some areas this was worse than others. The Catholic population of the Short Strand undertook heavy oppression from soldiers. Frankie’s photographs of this oppression shocked as well as educated me. These were normal people trying to go about their everyday lives. With a gun shoved in your face I’m sure this created tensions against the authority figures. In the following photograph we can see an example of resistance against British soldiers — “One Nation One People”; this photo is critically acclaimed.
As well as images of the Troubles that surrounded his youth, Frankie’s exhibition also includes images of conflict in different countries such as Palestine and Bosnia. Frankie Quinn published a book of his vast portfolio of work entitled, “Peacelines”. This book shows photography of the peacelines in Northern Ireland from both sides. Some of these photographs have been published in newspapers and magazines.
This exhibition of Frankie Quinn’s work has opened my eyes to what Northern Ireland used to be. It also makes me hopeful for future generations in Northern Ireland, as with the amount of progress our country has made in the last 30 years, who knows how far along we will be in another 30. Looking back on what was allows use to build towards what there is to come.