Watch an exclusive trailer for upcoming documentary TISH

Directed by Paul Sng and narrated by Maxine Peake, the feature film explores the life and work of photographer Tish Murtha, who captured the decline of north east England’s industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

An exclusive trailer for upcoming docu-biopic TISH has been released today, November 8, via Huck.

Released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on November 17, 2023, the feature film explores the life and work of groundbreaking documentary photographer Tish Murtha (1956-2013), and her commitment to documenting the lives of working-class communities in north east England.

TISH is directed by British-Chinese filmmaker Paul Sng and narrated by Silk and Shameless actor Maxine Peake. It tells Murtha’s story via a series of conversations and interviews with her friends, families and those who knew her work best, conducted by her daughter Ella Murtha.

One of 10 siblings, Murtha grew up in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne. She began documenting the world around her after finding a camera in an abandoned house as a child and came to focus her lens on the deindustrialisation of the north east in the 1970s and 1980s.

As a working-class photographer, Murtha’s black-and-white pictures never exploited those in the shots. Instead, they focus on the humanity, resilience, and joy of her subjects, set within a tough economic landscape and hardship.

The film looks at her motivations behind her work, and her belief that the documentary photography she engaged in could help to highlight the conditions of marginalised communities, and thus enact change.

Sadly, despite acclaim for her work, Murtha died in poverty after struggling to sustain herself from her photography.

Unflinching photos of austerity in Newcastle in the ‘70s & ‘80s

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Commenting on the release of the trailer, Director Sng said: “I was drawn to the empathy in her work and also her political intent. Like many great documentarians, she pointed her lens at what was wrong with society and used her camera to show us the impact of Thatcherism and deindustrialisation on working class communities. Tish told us how bad things were and that they were going to get a lot worse, which is a very courageous thing to do.”

Murtha’s daughter Ella said: “I wanted to make this film so people could learn who Tish was. As a mother, a sister, and a friend. What she stood for and why she took the pictures that she did so that she and those stories wouldn’t be forgotten. She was the most incredible mam (which I didn’t always appreciate until it was too late), and I miss her so much.

“She is the person that I want to tell about all the incredible things that have happened, and it hurts so much all over again that I can’t,” she continued.

“So to see her work being celebrated on the big screen is bittersweet but truly wonderful, and I'm so proud of her.”

Watch the trailer for TISH and find a full list of screenings and events at the Modern Films website.

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