You probably haven’t heard of Tish Murtha. I hadn’t before I watched this film. She was born in 1953 in South Shields (the North East for ignorant Southerners like me), the third of 10 children. She grew up in a council house in Newcastle, in what would generally be regarded as poverty. She displayed a talent for photography from an early age, and went to University in Newport when she was 20. After graduation, she came back to the North East and started to take photographs of her home town and the people she lived among.
What made this so rare and special was that she was part of the community she was recording, not – as was normal – an outsider coming to document the other half. And her photographs, which we see in Paul Sng’s lovely documentary, are as immediate and alive as that proximity would suggest.
The film is narrated by Tish’s daughter Ella, who has obviously made it her life’s work to ensure that her mother’s legacy is not only preserved, but cherished and embellished. Maxine Peake narrates the voiceover for a truly heartfelt film which premiered at the Sheffield Documentary Festival a couple of months ago. Tish’s photographs are now to be seen in the Tate Modern; this film is a fitting tribute to her life and work.
Paul Sng will be available to talk about the film after the screening!