Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Photographer Frankie Quinn captures Belfast

Frankie Quinn - BBC
Frankie Quinn has been documenting Belfast for nearly 30 years.

By Arthur Strain
BBC News

Belfast photographer Frankie Quinn first picked up a camera in 1982 and since then the has shot more than 70,000 images, ranging from his home streets in Short Strand and the interfaces that scar his home city to Palestine.

He started off documenting his community as part of a project at the Mac Airt community centre camera club, charting redevelopment of the area.

"The photographer Buzz Logan had been working in the Lower Shankill on the changes that redevelopment was bringing there.

"The Short Strand was being redeveloped and he was looking for people to go and photograph it.

"I was 15 at the time and it was the year after the Hunger Strikes, an explosive time.

"My da bought me a camera, second hand, to go and do this project to make sure that I was kept out of trouble."

The 35mm Praktica was the first of many he was to own over the years, documenting parts of the Troubles, the Belfast interfaces and beyond.

Gasworks 1984 - Frankie Quinn
The exhibition has a selection of images from the 1980s

He left school the following year with O-levels in biology and economics.

He said that with no openings for selling body parts he managed to get a job as a darkroom assistant under a government funded ACE scheme for Basil Collins, who ran a home-processing business.

The business failed, but with help from his father Frankie bought the old darkroom equipment.

"My da has always been a great influence on me," he said.

"He built me a darkroom out the back. He kept pigeons as a hobby and he made put the loft at the top and put a darkroom underneath it, this was in the yard of a two-up in Clyde Street.

"The pigeons got the penthouse suite."

He started using his camera for a living as a freelance photographer, supplying newspapers with images of a strife-torn Belfast, while also working as a wedding and portrait photographer to make ends meet.

Future

"I had a hunger to capture images and in the 80s and 90s they were everywhere you looked in Belfast," he said.

"It doesn't seem to be the same now, I stopped doing that sort of work after the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement."

He has been documenting the peace lines in Belfast and produced two books on them Interface Images and Streets Apart.

Currently the Director of the Red Barn Gallery on Rosemary Street, a retrospective of 25 years of his work features in the Black Box as part of the Cathedral Quarter's Out To Lunch Festival.

One thing hasn't changed for Frankie, he still shoots mostly on 35mm film.

"For personal work I still use film, so I can put the finishing touches to it - get into the darkroom, put on some music, it's kind of therapeutic," he said.

"I still like to print like that rather than going digital and using Photoshop."

With hundreds of folders of negatives picking the photographs for a retrospective was no easy task, but Frankie aims to get back out and add to the collection.

"I want to get out and start taking pictures again," he said.

"For the last two years I have been doing this (directing the gallery) but I hope to get back out again soon."



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