Review of Interface Images by Brendan Murphy
Is it Bridget and Sammy or Seamus and Iris?
It is impossible to tell which is the Catholic is and which is the Protestant. These east Belfast neighbours, a man and a woman who have probably never met, stand metres apart in their small gardens which run back to back. They can’t see one another because a wall separates them, but they are brought together by Frankie Quinn’s camera lens.
Frankie got a bird’s eye view to take what, for me, is the definitive picture of the peacelines that divide Catholics and Protestants in Nationalist and Loyalist areas. The picture is one of fifty-five black and white prints about the Belfast peacelines.
It was a difficult assignment because the peacelines have a oneness or sameness about them, but Frankie has captured life behind both sides of the wall. In the images there is fear, despair, humour, tribalism and everyday life.
There is the woman who cleans her windows inside a mesh cage which protects her from petrol bombs and bricks. There is the wee man going past a burning bus carrying his messages – with an expression saying, “Never mind the riots, I’ve got to get the dinner home”. There is the apprehensive young boy peering from behind the frosted window of a front door shattered by a brick or a stone. At Alliance Avenue, Frankie photographed kids looking through the slits in the Peaceline fence with the humorous caption, “Mister, can we have our ball back”.
These images, beautifully printed, stand on their own and are important because, if the peace process is successful, these walls may disappear. The book will be a grim reminder of the past twenty-five years.
Had it included captions or an anecdote with each picture, it would have been a more important social comment. We are not told when the first Peaceline was erected, how high the walls are, or how many of them exist.
Having covered most of the peacelines as a press photographer, I know most have a story to tell. For example, Frankie has taken an excellent picture of the last house in a street beside the Manor street Peaceline. But there is no caption to tell us how the occupants refused to move after years of bombs, bullets and bricks which drove their neighbours from their homes. The houses were then demolished.
Perhaps if the walls do come tumbling down, Bridget and Sammy or Seamus and Iris will get a chance to see and meet one another over their garden fence and become true neighbours. But that is a picture for another day.