Women Photographers from The AmberSide Collection
- Susan Mansfield
- 28 November 2019
Unique archive of photographs from the Newcastle-based Amber Film & Photography Collective
If you're anything like me, you might not know that there is a gallery in Newcastle dedicated to documentary photography which is also home to an important collection. As part of an ongoing commitment to showcase collections from around the UK, Stills is currently exhibiting a wide-ranging group of works from AmberSide, focusing on women photographers.
These range from members of the Amber Film & Photography Collective, which began in London in 1968 and moved to Newcastle the following year, to others, many of them international, whose work the group commissioned and acquired.
Founder member of Amber, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, began to photograph the working-class community of Byker, Newcastle, at the end of 1960s, just as the traditional terraces were being cleared to make way for modern estates. These black and white pictures capture a bygone era – terraced streets, children playing in a discarded pram. Photographing the area again from 2003 onwards, she tells a very different story – a new asylum-seeker community making lives for their families.
Newcastle-born Tish Murtha also had local stories she wanted to tell, particularly about the youth of the North-east in the early 1980s and the (lack of) opportunities open to them. But the show also opens out to reveal a much wider world: Graciela Iturbide's images of Mexican women, Susan Meiselas' hard-hitting work from war-torn Nicaragua, Laura Junka-Aikio's pictures of the residents of occupied Gaza enjoying brief times of respite on the beach.
And to contrast with these, there is Grace Robertson's charming 1954 photo essay for Picture Post about the housewives of Bermondsey living it up at the seaside, and the work of Martine Franck, who visited AmberSide with her partner Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1978, capturing dog shows, horse trials and grouse shoots.
While it makes sense to show works in sequences, the best pictures, like Konttinen's child on a spacehopper or Diane Arbus' topless dancer, are those that encapsulate a story in a single image.
Stills, Edinburgh, until Sun 8 Mar.