Pompey Darkroom is heading to the Historic Dockyard on the 25th of January for a collaboration with No.6 Cinema. It is their first event of 2024 showing a new photography film. You will also be able to see the secondhand photobook sale before the showing. Buy Tickets Here
Tish – Film Screening
Driven by a commitment to document the impact of deindustrialisation on working-class communities in Northeast England in the 1970s and 1980s, Tish Murtha used her camera to expose societal inequality. She felt she had an obligation to the people and problems within her local environment, and that documentary photography could highlight and challenge the social disadvantages that she herself had suffered. However, despite early acclaim for her work, she was unable to make a living from photography and died in poverty.
The film is a journey of exploration for Ella Murtha as both daughter and custodian of the Tish Murtha archive, a chance to elevate and preserve a legacy that has been lost and to tell the story of an artist and woman outside of the ‘mother’ that existed for her – or the version of Tish claimed within dominant narratives of the 70s and 80s photography – from the people who knew Tish and the images she left behind.
As part of this event, Pompey Darkroom are giving away 10 free tickets where financial access may be a barrier, please either DM on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org to allow your name to be added to the list, no questions asked.
Synopsis for the Film
As a working-class photographer from the North East, Tish felt an obligation to the people and problems within her local environment and used documentary photography to highlight and challenge the social disadvantages she herself suffered. Unlike many social documentary photographers, Tish was from the same streets as the people she photographed, lending a poignant intimacy to her stark yet tender black and white images. However, despite early acclaim for her work, she was unable to make a living from photography and was unable to escape the poverty she documented. She died aged 56, her work relatively unknown.
Tish’s brilliant eye, her unswerving ethics and constant empathy are present in her images, yet little is known of the artist herself. In this feature documentary, we follow Tish’s daughter, Ella, as she opens up her mother’s archive for the first time on screen to reveal a treasure trove of unseen images, artefacts, letters and diaries. Ella takes to the road to meet people who knew Tish and ask why she did not receive more recognition in her lifetime.
In digging into the past, Ella comes to terms with her own grief at her mother’s passing and reconnects with family members not seen in years. By shining a light on a working-class artist who went largely unrecognised in her lifetime, the documentary questions the value placed on working-class people both in the past and present day. Check out the details on No.6 Cinema here.
Find Out About Pompey Darkroom
I caught up with Karl Bailey, the creator of Pompey Darkroom. I felt excited to talk about the platform designed to promote and support photography in the city.
Hi Karl, thanks for taking the time to chat about your project and Pompey Darktown.
Can you explain what Pompey Darkroom is for those reading that might not know?
Pompey Darkroom is a Portsmouth-based CIC aiming to promote and support photography in the city. We are here to facilitate photography-based events including exhibitions, workshops, open calls, commissions, crit groups and much more. We are also keen to work to promote local photographers as well as friends of Pompey Darkroom from further afield.
Our primary focus is to support people who are interested in photography who may find it otherwise inaccessible. Our long-term goals are to nurture a community of open and like-minded photography lovers and help them develop their creative practice, no matter what stage they may be at.
Our ultimate goal is to build a darkroom in the city which will open up further opportunities to those interested in accessing traditional analogue printing and pave a new path for keeping traditional print methods alive.
What made you want to be a part of this photography film?
Tish Murtha’s work is extremely important and the story of her practice as a working class photographer is equally as important. Tish passed away in poverty and was relatively unknown within the photo world. Yet her work looking at the North East isn’t unusual, plenty of male non-working-class photographers were able to cut their teeth going into working-class communities and photographing them, often having significant success and being able to kick start a career. This wasn’t the case for Tish and to me, it highlights a significant issue around class, one that still exists today. For this reason, I felt it was really important that we were able to collaborate with No.6 Cinema to show this to Portsmouth.
What appealed to you that you think might appeal to the audience when it is aired?
Her story, her approach, she was a documentary photographer who had empathy and ethics, I would like photographers and artists to think more critically in the way she did and hopefully the film can highlight that and generate discussion. It’s also just a prevalent time to be looking back on historically. So I’m hoping it has something for everyone.
Why did you want to collaborate with No.6 Cinema?
No.6 cinema has been around for 23 years, it has a significant history as an independent picture house and as a firm believer in collaboration I wanted both of us to benefit from putting on such an amazing film.
Pompey Darkroom is a platform for photographers to come together and connect through their creative practice, we aim to promote critical discussion around photography and put on events for the community, this started as I found myself continuously tired of having to travel hours away to get my fix of photography based events. I kept asking myself why can’t we have something like this? Since then I have taken on a small team of volunteers and have created exciting partnerships across the city, with the emphasis being on collaboration and not competition. Despite still being in our infancy it has become apparent that there is a want and need from this and we are very excited to working on our 2024 program and really making the next step up from the events we did last year.
What future plans do you have for Pompey Darkroom?
There are quite a few things I would love to do in the future, our number one goal is to create a community darkroom in the city, however, location and funding are a significant challenge in making this happen. We continue to put on other events in the hope this will eventually build us enough momentum for a future funding bid or partnership in the city. Keep following us this year to see some new and bigger events rolled out through 2024.