Tish Murtha's OM1

Above: Tish Murtha's Olympus OM1. Credit: Oscopic.

Tish's Practice

Patricia "Tish" Murtha's photo-practice was humble and exemplary. Any neophyte photographer could gain by following the simplicity of her approach. First, on the question of ideas-and-concepts: the idea was to document social phenomena within a few miles of home--it might be teenage unemployment or it might be the culture of the local pub. Often her choice of subject was neatly contained and not massively open-ended, meaning it was doable because not unduly ambitious. Second, her camera set-up was fabulously uncomplicated: a 35mm film camera shooting black-and-white negatives. Her camera, a completely manual Olympus OM1, was a great choice of rig: robust, idiot-proof, easy to use (others along these lines include Nikon FM and Pentax K1000). And she only had one lens, a 50mm F1.8. Nothing more needed. Then, next, her approach to image-making was again simple and clear: print up the best negs using a durst M305 enlarger--most of the time she just printed 10x8s. Only when she had got a definite show in a photo-gallery did she print larger than that. Murtha is a super example of KISS in photography: Keep It Simple, Stupid. In other words, the control and clarity of her superb photos was also endemic across her practice methodology. Tight, simple, controlled, inexpensive. These days on ebay an OM1 in good nick with the same lens as Murtha used goes for about £70, and a pack of 10 rolls of Kodak Tmax on Amazon is £60 ... for £130 you are in business and ready to change the world with still photography.

(20 July 2018)