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British Culture Archive to present ‘A Woman’s Work’ exhibition

February 25, 2022

The British Culture Archive has put together the social documentary photography exhibition A Woman’s Work, which will open in Manchester on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022.

It will see a collection of photographs displayed on the exhibition walls of The Refuge Bar, Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, Manchester, to celebrate acclaimed female photographers in the North of England – in this case the late Tish Murtha (who shot the lead image, above, Richard and Louise) and Anne Worthington.

Following on from the success of 2020’s exhibition The People’s City – which featured the work of photographers Peter J. Walsh, Richard Davis and Rob Bremner – A Woman’s Work has been curated by Paul Wright of the British Culture Archive (BCA). The BCA is a non-profit organisation that was set up to document, highlight and preserve the changes in British culture and society through documentary photography.

Karen on an overturned chair. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

Karen on an overturned chair. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

The life of Tish Murtha

Part one of A Woman’s Work will feature iconic social documentary photography from Patricia ‘Tish’ Murtha (1956-2013), who was one of the most pre-eminent British documentary photographers of the post-war era. Murtha was known for capturing social change and everyday life on the fringes of society.

The third of 10 children, Murtha grew up in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne. Whilst studying at Newcastle College of Higher Education her lecturer persuaded her to study documentary photography at Newport College of Art, which had been newly set up by Magnum photographer David Hurn.

Kids jumping onto mattresses. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

Kids jumping onto mattresses. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

When asked in her interview by Hurn what she wanted to photograph she said, ‘I want to take pictures of policemen kicking children.’ Hurn said it was the shortest interview he’d ever done, because he knew exactly what she meant and knew she was going to be a social photographer.

After graduating in 1978, Murtha returned to Newcastle and began to document the daily lives of the people in her home community of Elswick, a marginalised area that had been hit hard by the decline of Tyneside’s once thriving shipbuilding industry.

SuperMac. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

SuperMac. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

The images Murtha captured are widely recognised as being some of the most powerful images of British social photography of the last 50 years.

Anne Worthington’s work 

In keeping with the BCA’s ethos of promoting previously unseen photography, the exhibition will also feature the work of Anne Worthington. She has produced an incredible body of work documenting the inner city communities of East Manchester in the early 2000s.

Beswick, 2000. Photo: © Anne Worthington.

Beswick, 2000. Photo: © Anne Worthington

The photographs show the inner city communities of Beswick, Clayton and Openshaw – areas of East Manchester that had fallen into decline. They capture the last days of these industrial areas, before and during the demolition that made way for new housing and businesses. Worthington focused on the daily lives of people who lived there, and how they worked to keep their community together when so many institutions had fallen away.

Openshaw, 2000. - Photo: © Anne Worthington

Openshaw, 2000. Photo: © Anne Worthington

Exhibition dates 

The free-to-enter exhibition will open at The Refuge Bar, Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, Manchester on 8 March 2022 and will run until the end of June 2022. The BCA says it plans to expand and tour A Woman’s Work around the UK and Europe.

British Culture Archive

Founded in 2017, the British Culture Archive is a non-profit organisation that was set up to document, highlight and preserve the changes in British culture and society through documentary photography. Through a passion for documentary photography, its mission is ‘to make photography accessible and inspire and engage people from all backgrounds.’

East Manchester. Photo: © Anne Worthington

East Manchester. Photo: © Anne Worthington

British Culture Archive works with a number of respected photographers and archives, as well as being a major platform for photography that has yet to be seen by a wider audience. Its online galleries, community workshops and exhibitions showcase and highlight British documentary photography from post war Britain to the present day.

The galleries include many previously unseen images from post-war Britain to the present day, including the 1960s’ mod scene, northern soul, punk, Thatcher’s Britain, social housing, acid house and more. To discover more go to the British Culture Archive website.


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