Film pays tribute to Newcastle photographer Tish Murtha's work capturing working class life

17.11.23 Kids jumping on mattresses LOW RES Credit: Tish and Ella Murtha
Tish Murtha witnessed the dereliction of young lives up close and captured the struggles of everyday life through her camera lens, including this image 'Kids Jumping onto Mattresses' - 'Youth Unemployment.' Credit: Tish and Ella Murtha

A film documenting the work of Newcastle photographer and activist Tish Murtha has been released.

Tish celebrates the work of the British social documentary and activist photographer and her work fighting for the working-class communities in the North East.

Tish Murtha's daughter Ella said the images are a record of a world decimated by a new and ruthless form of capitalism. Credit: Tish and Ella Murtha

Murtha grew up in Elswick, Newcastle and was the third of ten children. After finding a camera in an abandoned house as a child, she became driven by her conviction to expose societal inequality and the impact of Thatcher-era deindustrialisation on the north of England.

Favouring black and white photographs, her work captured everyday life on the streets where she grew up and her work reflected the struggles, joys and resilience of the people she photographed. 

Among her subjects were friends, family and neighbours.

Although Murtha’s work has now found critical acclaim, it was overlooked during her lifetime, and she died in poverty.  

Tish Murtha / Self - Portrait Credit: Tish and Ella Murtha Credit: Tish and Ella Murtha

Murtha’s story is told via a series of conversations conducted by Murtha’s daughter Ella who is the custodian of the Tish Murtha archive and has dedicated her life to establishing her mother’s legacy.

The film, which was released on Friday, November 17, is narrated by actor Maxine Peake and also makes use of Murtha's diary entries, letters, writings and photographs.

The film is being launched at Newcastle's Tyneside Cinema following its world premiere at Sheffield International Documentary Festival in June, 2023.

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