Monday, March 29, 2021

"The camera was an extension of her"

Like all good photographers, Tish Murtha took her camera everywhere she went. However, as her daughter Ella recently revealed, this wasn't just so that she was ready and able to capture anything that caught her eye: "She started carrying the camera with no film in it to protect her on the street."

It's a reminder of the tough environment in which she lived and worked - as well as of the general hazards of simply being a woman in public. Like Nick Hedges, she was an activist: "she wanted to change and to fight the good fight. The way that she could do it and make her voice heard was with photography." But unlike Hedges, she belonged to the community that she was photographing: "She was one of them, this was her world, and these were her people. She documented it from the inside." Hedges' work was for Shelter and social change, but there are certainly other photographers who, in Ella's words, go on what amounts to "a poverty safari" in the name of art and profit.

Ella was speaking to Daniel Dylan Wray for a Huck article about Paul Sng's proposed film exploring her mother's life and work, which has comfortably surpassed its initial crowdfunding target. For Ella, Tish will be both a poignant personal tribute and a means of inspiring others to believe in their own talents regardless of their background or circumstances: "I'm doing this film for her but also for every other working-class kid with a dream."

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