Tish Murtha’s striking photography of Britain’s social deprivation

22 August 2018

Photographer Tish Murtha created a series of projects in the 1970s and 80s offering a tender and frank perspective on social deprivation in Britain. The Photographer's Gallery is running an exhibition devoted to her work, which highlighted and challenged social disadvantages.

Tish Murtha, Elswick Kids, 1978 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery

After leaving school at 16 and working a variety of jobs, Murtha (1956-2013) took a photography class in Newcastle upon Tyne. She was encouraged by her lecturer to apply for the Documentary Photography course in Newport, the very first of its kind. Aged 20 Murtha left Newcastle in 1976 to study in Wales under the guidance of Magnum photographer David Hurn.

She felt she had an obligation to the people and problems within her local environment, and upon her return to Newcastle photographed family, friends, neighbours, the unemployed and children playing in the street. Murtha's work was often concerned with the documentation of marginalised communities from the inside.

The exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery surveys six major bodies of work: Newport Pub (1976/78), which was created whilst she was at college; Elswick Kids (1978); Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979), documenting children’s marching bands; Youth Unemployment (1980); London by Night (1983), a series on the sex industry in Soho; and Elswick Revisited (1987-1991).

Tish Murtha | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Elswick Kids, 1978 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Kids jumping onto Mattresses, 1980 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Karen on overturned chair, 1980 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Newport - Ex Miner - New Found out pub, 1977 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery
Tish Murtha, Newport – Angela and Starky, 1976 | © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved. Courtesy of Ella Murtha & The Photographers' Gallery

Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991

The exhibition Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991 is at The Photographer's Gallery until 14 October 2018.

The exhibition is co-curated by Val Williams and Gordon MacDonald, with Karen McQuaid. With thanks to Ella Murtha and the Tish Murtha Archive.

Women of the North

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