Tish Murtha

02nd October 2019

Work of Tish Murtha can be seen on the website run by her daughter Ella Murtha. The website is tishmurtha.co.uk. I cannot include any images for this blog post as they are strictly with permission only (c) Ella Murtha.

Tish Murtha was a British documentary photographer, who documented the working-class life in Newcastle upon Tyne and the North East of England as a means of social and political comment.

I particularly like this type of photography as it is quite similar to street photography. It captures the raw grittiness of life and Murtha’s images show the struggles and daily life of the poorer communities.

I would find it difficult to produce such a series of work due to the fact that the subject matter is not easy to come by. I would definitely have to do my research and in todays society the nearest I could get would be the homeless and asylum seekers who are victims of modern society. Images would be similar to the one below taken in Glasgow from The guardian Website..

Supporters gather round Afghan refugees Rahman Sahah and Mirwais Ahmadzai, who went on hunger strike last summer outside the Home Office in Glasgow to protest against the planned Serco evictions. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty

This Guardian report explains the statistics of poverty in the UK and the figures are horrific. So what images could I take if I knew specific areas to work in?

A rented property in east London. Almost 1.4 million people in England live in substandard housing. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

This article from The Mirror names (in their opinion) the twenty worst deprived places in England.

Deprivation town: Women walking past a disused property in Morris Avenue on the Brooklands estate in East Jaywick, near Clacton, Essex (Image: Nick Ansell/PA)

Top 20 most deprived places (The Mirror)

  1. Tendring – around St Osyth and Seawick
  2. Blackpool – By Central Pier
  3. Blackpool – Around the promenade near North Pier
  4. Thanet – Cliftonville West
  5. Blackpool – Near the South Pier
  6. Tendring – Clacton-on-Sea
  7. Blackpool – Between Waterloo Road and St Chad’s Station
  8. Coventry – Around Hillmorton Road in Henley
  9. Blackpool – Woolman Road and Clinton Avenue
  10. Waveney – near South Pier in Lowestoft 
  11. Blackpool – around Cookson Street
  12. Kingston upon Hull – Around St John’s Grove
  13. North East Lincolnshire – Around Oxford Street in Grimsby
  14. Burnley – Around Tay Street and Howard Street
  15. Burnley – Between Belvedere Road and Church Street
  16. Mansfield – Around Sandy Lane
  17. Blackpool – Around Manchester Square and Rigby Road
  18. Blackpool – Around Clevedon Road and Carshalton Road
  19. Blackburn with Darwen – Wensley Fold
  20. Great Yarmouth – Along the seafront

I was quite bemused at this as no 10 is a 20 minute walk from me and no 20 is a 35 minute bus ride. The series I shot called, ‘Text-in and Dumping Around The X22 Bus Stop‘ is the only visual clue to the fact that it is a poor area. The Lowestoft highstreet has a few homeless who sit there during the day and that is about it as far as visual clues to the social issues and lack of funding Lowestoft has. There are many closed shops, some old and in need of repair, and more closing by the month but there is no comparison to Murtha’s images.

If we look at Murtha’s work on her website, I am in awe of the dramatic black and white images. They are powerful and have the details within that make the work exciting to see and an eye-opener to the social and political problems of the time. I also like how some of her work, especially portraits use contrast of shadows and light extremely well. This can be seen in two photographs both with the same title: ‘Youth Unemployment, 1981.’

My conclusion on looking and reading about Murtha’s work is that I would indeed have a passion in producing candid photographs, however Murtha immersed herself in the world she was documenting and got to know the environment and the people very well. I am not sure my anxiety as it is at the present could handle such an intense relationship between subject and photographer.

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