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Work / Photography

Tish Murtha’s Elswick Kids portrays “the joy and freedom of childhood”

Following a year of appreciation for socially-focused photographer Tish Murtha, her daughter Ella has launched a new project to have yet another eye-opening series by the photographer bound in a book.

The first publication Ella worked on with publishers Bluecoat Press focused on her mother’s series Youth Unemployment, documenting the north of England during the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s tumultuous time as prime minister. The campaign successfully smashed its Kickstarter target by thousands, and The Photographers’ Gallery in London picked up on the way Tish’s work still manages to communicate with audiences all these years later; holding a retrospective on the photographer "now recognised as one of the most important British documentary photographers of her time,” says her daughter Ella.

The exhibition proved that Tish has much more work to delve into, as Ella points out in her latest Kickstarter campaign – which at the time of writing has already beaten its target by almost £10,000 – titled Elswick Kids. Taken while Tish returned to Newcastle upon Tyne after studying photography in Newport, these images “capture the joy and freedom of childhood at a time when it was normal to play out in the street, in a way that has been largely lost today,” Ella tells It’s Nice That. “The landscape may be rough, but the kids are making the most of what little they have. They have a humour and resilience that shines through in every image.”

It’s a series Ella has always loved and after seeing and hearing feedback from The Photographers’ Gallery exhibition, she knew that they were recognised by audiences as being particularly special. “I love Elswick Kids, and have really enjoyed looking through the archive and almost travelling back in time with each image,” Ella continues. “The kids are always outside, and you very rarely see an adult, or cars (unless abandoned, burnt out and used as play equipment), and plenty of dogs. It is just an entirely different time.”

Despite being shot in the 1970s, the series still resonates now; highlighted by the way Ella finds herself continuously staring at them, despite the fact that she was born later than the children featured. The series portrays an aspect of British childhood many can relate to, with Ella herself saying she remembers “going out after breakfast during the holidays, exploring and having adventures all day, and only coming home if I got hungry, or it was dark.”

Despite Youth Unemployment, from 1981, being the series audience’s of Tish’s often recognise or appreciate, Elswick Kids gives you a glimpse into the photographer’s life, just as she’s growing into being the iconic documentarian she is known as today. “These pictures came first, and while it was never an exhibition, and there is no text from Tish, they were obviously very important to her, and that makes them important to me. I feel this series is strong enough to stand alone and deserves its own book.”

You can support Ella’s campaign for Elswick Kids here, and bag yourself a copy while you still can!

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids

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Tish Murtha: Elswick Kids