Review of Interface Images by Máirtín Crawford 

Frankie Quinn’s stark photographs of Belfast’s communal dividing lines paint a dark and pessimistic portrait of a divided city.  

The ‘Peacelines’, first erected as a temporary measure in 1969, have become a familiar part of Belfast’s urban geography and they act here as the physical reminders of how difficult any act of reconciliation between the two communities they divide will be. 

Quinn’s photographs tell a story of division and the more than temporary nature of the interfaces – neatly illustrated by the third photograph in the book showing the line dividing the Falls from the Shankill – ivy has colonised most of the walls and stretches up along the corrugated iron of the top of the fence, a twice - ironic juxtaposition of nature against construction.  

The next photograph in the collection, taken from high above looking down, showing a part of the Short Strand part of Belfast, is almost surreal in its depiction of the back to back yards of terraced houses, neighbours shut off from each other by the presence of the Peaceline that rises ominously above and between the houses. 

In other photographs the walls act as a backdrop to the daily lives of the citizens of Belfast. Women shop with their children along divided streets, kids play at being soldiers/IRA/UVF/whatever, teenagers lounge on the sofas collected for annual bonfires, surrounded by wood, hemmed in by the peacelines, designed to keep them in, others out, all away from each other.  

What is also apparent from even a cursory glance is the absolute dereliction and desolation of the urban landscapes portrayed – tiny bricked up terraced houses, areas redolent with poverty peopled by those whose faces speak grimly of life after twenty five years of ‘temporary measures’ and failed political initiatives. There will be no grand Berlin – wall – like deconstruction of these dividing lines, rather a slow and tortuous road towards understanding and reconciliation. Frankie Quinn’s powerful and haunting photographs remind us of how long that road could be. 

Máirtín Crawford 
The Big Spoon 
Winter 1995  

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