“She believed that photography was an important form of visual communication that could stimulate discussions about real-life situations and captured accurate records of the world we live in,” Ella Murtha told BJP last year. “She was trying to force people to look at the truth and learn from it.” Born in South Shields in 1956, Tish Murtha left school aged just 16 and supported herself by selling hotdogs and working in a petrol station. She found her way into photography anyway, studying at the influential School of Documentary Photography at Newport College of Art, then returning to the North East to record the social deprivation she herself had suffered, as well as photographing in London.
In 1969 the Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen ditched her filmmaking course, moving to Newcastle with a group of idealistic young ex-students to found the Amber collective, and embarking on a series of long-term projects, including her seminal work on Byker, which was inscribed in the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. Nearly 50 years on, she continues to live and work in the north-east as a member of Amber
“Everyone talks about 1968 as the year of revolution, but America was burning in 1967,” says Mark Sealy. “There were many riots and disturbances that year, but Parks was looking at intimacy, not running across the country shooting riots. He was telling history through these very personal stories.” He’s talking about Gordon Parks, the feted documentary photographer and film-maker (best known for directing Shaft). In particular Sealy is talking about Parks’ work with the Fontenelles, a family living in poverty in Harlem in 1967 that Parks photographed for a 16-page story published in Life in March ’68.
“The working class get it in the neck basically, they’re the bottom of the pile,” says Chris Killip. “I wanted to record people’s lives because I valued them. I wanted them to be remembered. If you take a photograph of someone they are immortalised, they’re there forever. For me that was important, that you’re acknowledging people’s lives, and also contextualising people’s lives,” says key British documentary photographer, Chris Killip
As debut projects go, Murray Ballard could scarcely have chosen a more intriguing subject than cryonics. The practice of preserving dead bodies at very low temperatures, in the hope of bringing them back to life far in the future, is commonly thought to exist only in science fiction, where it is generally known by its technically inaccurate name of “cryogenic freezing”. Yet as Ballard (no relation to his namesake, the sci-fi author JG) discovered during his five- year investigation, hundreds of people around the world have already invested in what he has calls “The Prospect of Immortality”. The 27-year-old began documenting cryonicists while studying photography at the University of Brighton, after he discovered there was a group of British believers based just along the Sussex coast in Peacehaven. He was soon making much longer excursions, his work taking him to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona three times, the rival Cryonics Institute in Michigan twice, and the burgeoning Kriorus facility just outside Moscow on a further two occasions. Having worked as an assistant to Magnum photographer …