Ella Murtha presents her Mothers Newport Photography archive

Tish Murtha

In Memory of Patrica Anne Murtha, (Tish), Documentary Photography 1976-78, Newport College of Art

Patrica's Daughter Ella explains how, whilst going through some old boxes this project captured her imagination.

This time last year I spent the Easter holidays excitedly going through my mams negatives...A particular folder drew my attention...From her days on the Doc Photo course at Newport college of art. I really enjoyed seeing where it all began. That course changed my mams life, she worked so hard to get on it, and was fortunate to get a grant from Newcastle Education authority in order to go.

I have since found out that she actually turned up in Newport on the first day of term with nowhere to stay! She was so determined to get there that I don't think she thought any further ahead. She was never interested in material possessions, and as long as she had the clothes on her back and her camera she had everything she needed.

Luckily, another student called David, who lived locally, took her home with him, and his parents introduced him to their friends David and Ester who rented my mam a room at their home in Cwmfelinfach until she could get somewhere permanent. She enjoyed talking to David about his time as a miner and trade union member, who by that time did not enjoy good health owing to his years spend underground. 

She then went on to find permanent digs at 25 Colne Street, Newport, which is where the Silver Jubilee celebrations in the box set happened. Everyone on the course in 1977 did a joint project to mark the Silver Jubilee of the Queen. The plan was that they would all go to different parts of the UK to photograph how the event was marked, they then would all return to Newport that night and process and print 20 sets of 20 prints.

David Hurn let them to do all the work, including the final edit themselves, but he did offer to arrange possible distribution of their prints from the Magnum office in Paris, providing they were able to deliver them overnight and that there had to be at least two photographs of the Queen.

My mam, not being much of a royalist, was not fully on side at first, and they entered into some lively debate before they set about the project, with her choosing to remain in Newport and document the local celebrations. But it all came together, someone went to Buckingham Palace and got the required photo of the Queen in the gold coach. Everyone made it back to Newport in time, and another student jumped on the back of her boyfriends motorbike and made the Paris deadline.

The next day back in college David Hurn  confirmed that a number of prints had been sold across the world!

The course at Newport sounds like it was so exhilarating and really taught them all so much. I am over the moon to honour the course and be able to share just a few of the projects my mam did while on it, with the release of this special box set from Cafe Royal Books.

You can purchase a copy of Ella's collection online.

Read Tish's story