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New documentary celebrating the life of documentary photographer Tish Murtha opened Sheffield Doc Fest!

June 6, 2023

“Working with Emily and the Onsight team on the colour grade for Tish was a wonderful experience. As a colourist, Emily has great instincts and we quickly established a palette for the three narrative strands across actuality, recon and Tish’s original photographs. Further to that, I was impressed by Emily’s empathy for Tish’s story and how she reflected the mood on screen as the story progressed with subtle yet significant adjustments. I look forward to our next collaboration.” Paul Sng, Director

New documentary TISH is an exploration into the life and work of photographer Tish Murtha, her role as a mother, artist, and young working-class woman from the North East; her perspective, challenges, and motivations. The documentary opened the 30th edition of Sheffield DocFest on June 14th.

Led in part by Ella, Tish’s daughter, the documentary looks to ‘elevate and preserve Tish’s legacy’, displaying attitudes towards working-class communities – especially their artists. Directed by Paul Sng, the film takes a personal approach to the space crafted by Tish’s work, the insight she offered into marginalised communities, and the relationships she forged in the creation of her art. The documentary is produced by Jen Corcoran through Freya Films and Sng’s Velvet Joy Productions, with cinematography by Hollie Galloway, and the voice of Tish played by Maxine Peake. The team has strong affiliation with the voices and stories being told in TISH, the story of a female working-class artist from the Northeast of Britain. The documentary serves to celebrate working-class communities and culture in the same way Tish used her photography. The production has received support from the BBC, BFI, and Screen Scotland.

Emily Russul Saib, our colourist, completed a four day, Projection grade, SDR for the project. “As the documentary is about a photographer we didn’t want to alter any of the stills that were taken by Tish.” The documentary was made up by various interviews shot on Sony a7s in Rec709 which were given a grade, film archive which was corrected and balanced, reconstruction filmed on Arri in Log C and then stills taken by Tish. Emily particularly enjoyed working with Paul and having his trust. The project was overseen by Post Producer Cem Kilinchan.

Tish was born in South Shields in March 1956, but later moved to Elswick in the West End of Newcastle Upon Tyne. She took her first steps into photography by way of a course at Bath Lane, Newcastle, followed by the Documentary Photography course in Newport (set up by David Hurn and the only one of it’s kind at the time), propelled by her lecturer who also helped secure her the education grant that allowed her to go. In Newport, she captured PM James Callaghan opening up a new stretch of the M4, Aubrey Hames’ year as Mayor of Newport, and local election campaigns.

Returning to Newcastle, her photography turned towards her friends and family, and the documenting of marginalised communities from an insider’s perspective. Trust was the primary building block of her relationships with her subjects, offering copies of her photographs, fostering an understanding of what she was trying to achieve with her access. Tish used her photography to display these communities positively, while forcing a spotlight onto the challenges and disadvantages faced by those pictured. Two of these projects were Youth Unemployment, and Juvenile Jazz Band, later raised as subjects of debate in the House of Commons, in which she wanted to show ‘how tenacious, resourceful, clever and resilient they were (and had to be) – Tish was always fiercely protective of them.’

Tish passed away in 2013, the day before her 57th birthday, after suffering a brain aneurysm. Her organ donation meant that the lives of four women, and the eyesight of four men, were saved. This is another part of her legacy that her daughter Ella looks to remember and campaign for.

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