Tish Murtha, one of Magnum photojournalist David Hurn’s first students at the famous School of Documentary Photography in Newport, Wales, in the 1970s, was one of the finest documentary photographers of her generation but, in the all-too-usual manner, was ignored by the photography establishment until recently thanks to the tireless efforts of her daughter Ella Murtha, The Photographers’ Gallery, Bluecoat Press, Café Royal Books and others.
The course at The School of Documentary Photography was unique in Britain at the time and produced many fine photographers, a couple of whom later moved to Australia.
Others went on to fame and fortune, while Tish Murtha seemed to have disappeared into the background after initial early successes and commissions, dying prematurely in 2013.
Given the way female photographers have tended to be ignored and forgotten, it is wonderful to see that Tish Murtha is finally receiving the recognition that she deserved so much in her lifetime.
“The sinew and texture of history are to be found in this grippingly detailed documentary by Peter Stephan Jungk, based on his 2015 book The Darkrooms of Edith Tudor-Hart. She was Jungk’s aunt: an Austrian-born documentary photographer and socialist, domiciled in Britain during and after the second world war, whose work brilliantly recorded the lives of the urban working classes in Vienna, London and the Rhondda valley….”
This documentary on the life and work of Edith Tudor-Hart is currently doing the rounds of cinemas and film festivals, and I hope that it will eventually become available for viewing or purchasing online.
Far too many historically important female photographers and especially female documentary photographers have been forgotten about and left out of the historical record, gallery shows and museums, and time is well overdue for Edith Tudor-Hart and so many others of her ilk to be recognized, racy political background or not.
Comments in the media about Edith Tudor-Hart’s reliance on a Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex aka TLR camera are interesting.
I used several Rolleiflex TLR cameras during the analog era and would have loved to have been able to buy one each of the most recent standard lens, telephoto and wide-angle lens versions of the camera, but Rolleiflexes were always hard to find and costly new or secondhand.
Their waist-level viewfinders and other viewing options made it possible to melt into the crowd when photographing in public or next-to-invisible when making portrait photographs in public or in the studio, aided by their relatively quiet leaf shutters.
There was no mirror slap as their twin lens reflex design meant they had a lower lens for making the photograph and the upper lens for viewing, with the viewing compartment mirror fixed.
Rolleflex and other brand TLRs such as those made by Mamiya and Yashica continue to be popular amongst certain documentary photographers who are blessed with access to good secondhand camera suppliers, but there are digital alternatives such as Fujifilm’s medium format GFX 50S with optional tilting EVF adapter and more affordably Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GX8 and DC-GX9 Micro Four Thirds camera, both of which have built-in tilting EVFs.
It is also possible to make waist-level-style photographs with cameras having tilting LCD monitors, though I much prefer fully-articulated LCD monitors for the purpose and some Panasonic cameras have these too, on cameras including the DSLR-style Lumix DMC-GH4, GH5, GH5S and G9.
Given the choice between tilting EVFs, tilting LCDs and fully articulated LCDs, my preference by far is for cameras combining tilting EVFs with fully-articulated LCDs as they present the most versatile viewing options and thus the most ways of seeing and shooting stills and video.
Waist-level and tilting viewfinder cameras and users
Photojournalist Ian Berry of Magnum Photos using Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7.
Photojournalist Thomas Dworzak of Magnum Photos using Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7.
Australian photojournalist Daniel Berehulak using his Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 with fully-articulated LCD monitor.
Small tilting electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 rangefinder-style camera.
Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format digital camera with Fujifilm VG-GFX1 Vertical Battery Grip and tilting LCD monitor.
Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format digital camera with Fujifilm EVF-TL1 EVF Tilt Adapter.
Fujifilm GX680 II 6cm x 8cm format 120 roll-film camera, like a cross between a view camera with camera movements and a waist-level twin lens reflex camera, lovely for portraits and product shots. Photograph courtesy of Cambo.
Hasselblad 203FE with waist level finder. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
Phase One XF 100MP cameras. Photograph courtesy of Phase One,
Rollei Rolleiflex 2.8 FX Medium Format Twin Lens Reflex Camera with 80 mm Planar f/2.8 HFT lens, now no longer in production.
Rolleiflex 4.0 FW Medium Format Twin Lens Reflex Camera with Built-in Schneider Kreuznach Super-Angulon 50mm f/4 HFT lens, now no longer in production.
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Fujifilm GFX 50S Medium Format Mirrorless Camera – B&H – soon to be joined by the release of its larger GFX 100S and smaller GFX 50R siblings.
Fujifilm EVF-TL1 EVF Tilt Adapter – B&H – with the addition of this tilt adapter the Fujifilm GFX 50S in effect becomes a waist-level viewfinder camera.
Fujifilm VG-GFX1 Vertical Battery Grip – B&H – adding this battery grip helps turn the Fujifilm GFX 50S into a viable vertical/portrait format camera for handheld or tripod use for portraiture and documentary photography.
Fujifilm 64GB Elite II Performance UHS-II SDXC Memory Card – B&H – until this fast SDXC card appeared at B&H, I was unaware that Fujifilm also makes memory cards. Worth buying and trying.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera – B&H
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera – B&H
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera – B&H
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera – B&H
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body Only, Black) – B&H
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-60mm Lens – B&H
Panasonic DMW-EC5 Eyecup – B&H – essential for getting the best out of the GX9’s small field sequential viewfinder.
Panasonic Hand Grip for Lumix DC-GX9 Mirrorless Camera – B&H – essential for safe, secure grip of the GX9 when using medium-sized to large lenses.
“Fujifilm Corporation is collaborating with Magnum Photos on a major new project exploring the subject of “HOME”. An exhibition of the work will tour to seven cities around the world starting in March 2018, and be accompanied by a photobook.
15 Magnum Photographers will explore the theme of “HOME” for the project. Known for their wide range of approaches, Magnum Photos members produce documentary photography that encompasses art and photojournalism. Sharing the agency’s legacy for humanistic photography, associated with its founding in 1947, Magnum’s contemporary practitioners are united by a curiosity about the world. This project invites them to explore a universal subject familiar to us all.
“Home” is not only defined as a space for physical living. It holds various other associations that are emotional, biological, cultural and societal. These 15 photographers have been given an open brief to explore the subject through their own individual practices, the resulting work reflecting their personal take on a subject that we all record photographically….”
“The photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb have produced a book, “Slant Rhymes,” that pairs images by each of them in diptychs. In an email exchange with James Estrin, they discussed the book, photography and their relationship….”
Dr Michael Coyne is a legendary Australian photojournalist and documentary photographer whose client list includes some of the most prestigious magazine, corporate and institutional clients. He is heavily involved in outreach and education, being Adjunct Professor of Photography at Melbourne’s RMIT University and Honorary Lecturer at Hong Kong University as well as a respected public speaker.
A longtime Fujifilm camera user and Fujifilm Ambassador, Dr Coyne was chosen to test the Fujifilm GFX 50S in Tokyo in January between working on assignments and personal projects such as the one about contemporary village life depicted in this video.
FUJIFILMglobal – Michael Coyne with XF23mmF2 R WR / FUJIFILM
Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay, a documentary movie about the life, photography and photography magazine work of the late Bill Jay, one of the most influential figures in the history and development of photography in the UK and who had an important effect on my own work, is currently in production.
My attention was drawn to this documentary via a photograph of Magnum photographer Martin Parr holding a copy of A Day Off, An English Journalby Tony Ray-Jones, one of the quintessential photography books. I bought my own copy years ago at an excess stock sell-off by the State Library Board of Western Australia. Their loss, my gain.
Mr Ray-Jones famously informed Bill Jay that his magazine was shit, when the latter was editor of Creative Camera magazine.
This morning a mention on social media reminded me of the late, great but undervalued, almost forgotten, documentary photographer Tish Murtha.
Tish Murtha’s daughter Ella Murtha has inherited her mother’s estate and is now working on ensuring the legacy of one of the great British documentary photographers is not forgotten but is commemorated with exhibitions and the publication of her core body of work, Youth Unemployment.
While in the pre-production phase, though, I discovered that many potential story subjects are unfamiliar with the photo essay or photo story concept. I didn’t find much about photo essays online, or at least in one place, so have compiled my own About page defining the photo essay form of photography, with plenty of useful links.