Women by Women at Newcastle’s BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

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“I think women photographers are very good at building relationships with their subjects” says Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, co-founder of Amber, a film and photography collective based in Newcastle that aims to capture working-class life in North East England. “They are more interested in the personal stories, and through these they get a much more intimate look into their subjects’ lives.”

Women by Women is a major presentation of the work of five female photographers working in the North East from the 1970s – 2000s. Curated by Konttinen, the photographs are drawn from projects originally commissioned by Amber, and the exhibition forms part of the Idea of North season at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle.

“The North is often associated with the male more than the female, in terms of what has been documented,” says Konttinen. “I thought it [the show] would make a strong statement about our collection being more balanced than is perceived by the outside world. It’s the idea of bringing women into the picture of the whole concept of the North.”

Karlie with her daughter, Horden, County Durham, winter 2004. From the series All Dressed Up, 2005 © Karen Robinson

The exhibition starts with Konttinen’s Byker (1970), which was shot in the Newcastle district of the same name; it finishes with Karen Robinson’s All Dressed Up (2005) from East Durham – at the time the area with the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK. In between is work by Tish Murtha, Markéta Luskačová and Izabela Jedrzejczyk, including two different takes on juvenile jazz bands by Luskačová and Murtha, and Jedrzejczk’s portraits from her local, the Northumberland Arms in New Quay, North Shields.

Aside from Konttinen’s Step by Step (1980s), which documents a dance school in North Shields, none of the projects originally focussed exclusively on women. Instead Konttinen has selected specific images from the series, looking for photographs of women by women that tell stories about life in the North. “Each series is a narrative in its own right,” she says.

Women by Women is on display as part of Idea of North at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle till 30 September https://baltic.art/idea-of-north https://www.amber-online.com/

Girl on a Spacehopper, 1971. From the series Byker, 1970s © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Heather playing the piano in a derelict house, 1971. From the series Byker, 1970s © Sirkka-Liisa, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Young couple in a backyard, 1975. From the series Byker, 1970s © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Tynemouth, September 1978. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen,  courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Whitley Bay, August 1978. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Whitley Bay, June 1989. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
The Chieftains training, Cruddas Park. From the exhibition Juvenile Jazz Bands, commissioned by Side Gallery and first exhibited in 1979 © Tish Murtha
From the series Jungle Portraits, 1981 © Izabela Jedrzejczyk
From the series Jungle Portraits, 1981 © Izabela Jedrzejczyk
Gnana and her daughter Kavi, 2003. From the series Byker Revisited, 2009 © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amber / L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
Melissa, Carly Jo and Sarah, Thornley, County Durham. summer 2004. From the series All Dressed Up, 2005 © Karen Robinson
Aimee and her friend get ready to go out, County Durham. From the series All Dressed Up, 2005 © Karen Robinson
Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.