Red Barn Gallery
Homely gallery space showcases the work of Belfast photographers. Click Play Video for an online exhibition narrated by Frankie Quinn and Gary Hewitt
Once a public bar, the Red Barn Gallery has become Belfast’s newest, most quirky gallery space.
Located beside Rosemary Street Church, just off Royal Avenue, the Red Barn's arched ceilings and original bar, still in situ, decorated with the thick glass bases of age old wine bottles, recall the building’s smoke-filled, hedonistic heyday.
Yet photographers Gary Hewitt and Frankie Quinn have restored the space with 1,000 litres of white paint and a whole lot of TLC, and now the Red Barn is once again open for business and pleasure.
An ongoing exhibition in the gallery contains photographic work from the founders, as well as a selection of never-before seen images by the late John White.
The exhibition provides a wonderful photographic time-line of Belfast, from the black and white days of pre-Troubles life to the colourful, panoramic post-Troubles era of bright lights and modern architecture.
'We opened in August 2008,' explains Hewitt. 'Really, the idea behind the gallery and the current exhibition is that you’ve got Belfast going back over the previous forty years, from the mid-1960s to the inception of the Troubles with John White’s work.
'Frankie’s work takes you through the 80 and 90s, he’s in the thick of it in a lot of cases. He captured some of the iconic moments of the Troubles. Apart from its photographic value, Frankie's work has got real historic value also. And then there's my work, which is concerned with modern day Belfast.'
An amateur photographer, who also worked with Super 8 film, John White built up a vast collection of photographs taken in and around his native Belfast. After his death, White's collection was subsequently handed over to Quinn for safe keeping.
'What I’m trying to do here is promote John,' Quinn states. 'He died in 1982 and his family gave me his negatives to look after. I think he’s one of the finest photographers that Belfast has produced, and he certainly deserves recognition.
'John started photographing in about 1964, and as well as still photographs he produced a lot of Super 8 movies. Some of his Super 8 stuff is really fascinating, but being a stills photographer myself I’m more interested in his stills work.
'He came from the Shot Strand area of Belfast, and his wife came from the Lower Falls, so some of his stuff is from both areas of the community. When you look at his work, you realise that he captured the calm before the storm – domestic portraits before the Troubles kicked in. Absolutely beautiful shots.'
Quinn, in a sense, has picked up where White left off. Although many of his own photographs in the Red Barn show the people effected by the Troubles, most show how the environment has changed as a result of sectarianism. His Streets Apart book documents the development of Peace Walls throughout the city.
Which leaves Hewitt, who finishes the exhibition with his panoramic shots of inner-city Belfast as we know it today. The current, untitled exhibition in the Red Barn Gallery will continue indefinately and will be routinely updated with other images taken from the three photographer's collections.
But the Red Barn is not just a gallery space, as Hewitt details.
'We offer customers a range of services. We can frame up images at any size, print them out and stretch them on canvas.
We also have our own portrait gallery and a projection, viewing area, so that customers can view an image in life size. It’s really a bit of a photo factory, a one-stop shop. You’ve got the historic images coupled with the modern production. It's taken a lot of work, but we're chuffed with the results.'