When Tish Murtha sadly died from a brain aneurysm in 2013, she had largely been forgotten In 2017, her key work, Youth Unemployment, was published to universal acclaim, and was followed by a major retrospective at London’s Photographers Gallery. Tish has now been recognised as a social-documentary photographer of the first rank.
Murtha had set out to document “marginalised communities from the inside” and, set against today’s austerity, her work is more relevant than ever. The anger and frustration evident in Youth Unemployment even reached the House of Commons, where it was raised as a subject of debate. Elswick Kids is a less strident set of images. They were taken as Tish walked the streets of the working-class district of Elswick in Newcastle Upon Tyne and were not intended to be an exhibition in their own right. Today, though, they tell of a time when children had the freedom of the streets to play in and where friendship blossomed against a seemingly harsh background. The photographs have a stark beauty that shines from every page. Elswick Kids is a vital contribution to our understanding of life in a northern city in the late twentieth century.