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Women by Women at Newcastle’s BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

From the series Jungle Portraits, 1981 © Izabela Jedrzejczyk

"It’s the idea of bringing women into the picture of the whole concept of the North," says Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen of the show, which includes work by her and by Tish Murtha, Markéta Luskačová, Izabela Jedrzejczyk and Karen Robinson

“I think women photographers are very good at building relationships with their subjects” says Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, co-founder of Amber, a film and photography collective based in Newcastle that aims to capture working-class life in North East England. “They are more interested in the personal stories, and through these they get a much more intimate look into their subjects’ lives.”

Women by Women is a major presentation of the work of five female photographers working in the North East from the 1970s – 2000s. Curated by Konttinen, the photographs are drawn from projects originally commissioned by Amber, and the exhibition forms part of the Idea of North season at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle.

“The North is often associated with the male more than the female, in terms of what has been documented,” says Konttinen. “I thought it [the show] would make a strong statement about our collection being more balanced than is perceived by the outside world. It’s the idea of bringing women into the picture of the whole concept of the North.”

Karlie with her daughter, Horden, County Durham, winter 2004. From the series All Dressed Up, 2005 © Karen Robinson

The exhibition starts with Konttinen’s Byker (1970), which was shot in the Newcastle district of the same name; it finishes with Karen Robinson’s All Dressed Up (2005) from East Durham – at the time the area with the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK. In between is work by Tish Murtha, Markéta Luskačová and Izabela Jedrzejczyk, including two different takes on juvenile jazz bands by Luskačová and Murtha, and Jedrzejczk’s portraits from her local, the Northumberland Arms in New Quay, North Shields.

Aside from Konttinen’s Step by Step (1980s), which documents a dance school in North Shields, none of the projects originally focussed exclusively on women. Instead Konttinen has selected specific images from the series, looking for photographs of women by women that tell stories about life in the North. “Each series is a narrative in its own right,” she says.

Women by Women is on display as part of Idea of North at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle till 30 September http://baltic.art/idea-of-north https://www.amber-online.com/

Girl on a Spacehopper, 1971. From the series Byker, 1970s © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

Heather playing the piano in a derelict house, 1971. From the series Byker, 1970s © Sirkka-Liisa, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

Young couple in a backyard, 1975. From the series Byker, 1970s © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

Tynemouth, September 1978. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen,  courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

Whitley Bay, August 1978. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

Whitley Bay, June 1989. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

The Chieftains training, Cruddas Park. From the exhibition Juvenile Jazz Bands, commissioned by Side Gallery and first exhibited in 1979 © Tish Murtha

From the series Jungle Portraits, 1981 © Izabela Jedrzejczyk

From the series Jungle Portraits, 1981 © Izabela Jedrzejczyk

Gnana and her daughter Kavi, 2003. From the series Byker Revisited, 2009 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

Melissa, Carly Jo and Sarah, Thornley, County Durham. summer 2004. From the series All Dressed Up, 2005 © Karen Robinson

Aimee and her friend get ready to go out, County Durham. From the series All Dressed Up, 2005 © Karen Robinson