I own two prints that I'm extremely fond of. They sit on my mantlepiece and I never tire of them. One is a 1950 horse and rider silkscreen print by Marino Marini - one of my favourite sculptors. It was given to me by Frank Tomes, teacher/technician when I was studying at Wimbledon College of Art in the 90's. I've never forgotten the kindness of the gift. Frank was a patient man in the face of the endless clamours of art students for assistance with plaster and welding rods. Many years later I learned that Frank was a professional sousaphonist and instrument maker (associated with amongst others Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band which was an off-shoot of the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band). Following his death in 2011 his wife Susan donated a collection of 36 historical instruments to the University of Edinburgh. Now The Frank Tomes Collection.
Beside the Marini sits a print by Belfast photographer Frankie Quinn that I purchased for myself. In the middle-ground stands a police officer watching over a solider with a bomb-disposal robot in the background. In the foreground and deliciously out of focus in a scritchy jumper a young boy with a Belfast shaved head beaks through an alley at them. I simply love this print. Growing up in West Belfast in the 70's this just says childhood to me. It is perversely comforting in the familiar. Immediately I'm in polyester shorts in Willowvale in those hot summers, asking the crouched soldiers for chewing gum. 'Can I hold your gun mister?' In the early days they would let you. Moreover though, I appreciate it as a photographer. I like that it is hard to tell if the officer is looking at you or the solider. It is perfectly framed with immense depth - frame within a frame, rule of thirds, it's got it all going on. Since the eighties it looks like Frankie Quinn was usually in the background when it was all going on; or in the middle of it when it was kicking off. His early work was invariably gritty and photojournalistic. If you had the balls and a good eye it wasn't hard to get a decent action shot most Belfast nights but you needed to get your anorak on and get out there; with a steady hand an a quick eye. Latterly I find his work contemplative and full of enquiry - such as his studies of the peace walls or the Orange marches. Kicking with the same foot as Quinn myself I have been similarly fascinated by the parades and attended with my camera - a tourist in my own town, voyeur even, fascinated by a culture so familiar and alien at the same time.
Quinn has a formidable body of work behind him, in terms of social documentary increasingly invaluable. I purchased a large print of the murmurations over Queens Bridge for my brother, again a brilliant shot. Frankie Quinn makes his world and his work look effortless, his social framing is intuitive and immersive. I have a special connection to his pictures because of their provenance, but I have an admiration for them as extraordinary works of photojournalism and exquisite social documentary. Quinn runs the Red Barn Gallery on Rosemary Street and has exhibited all over the world. He has also documented conflict in Palestine/Israel, Turkey/Kurdistan and Bosnia.