Monday 27 July 2015

Amber Film & Photography Collective

Amber Film & Photography Collective

For Ever Amber: Stories From A Film & Photography Collective
Laing Art Gallery
27 June – 19 September 2015

Integrate life and work and friendship
Don’t tie yourself to institutions.
Live cheaply and you’ll remain free.
And, then, do whatever it is that gets you up in the morning.

This maxim, taken from an early manifesto, is as relevant today as it was back in 1968 when the Amber Film & Photography Collective first came together, following the vision of founder member Murray Martin (1943-2007). Originally from Stoke, Martin had studied Fine Art in Newcastle before deciding what he was really interested in was filmmaking. While studying this at Regent Street Polytechnic, he met, among others, Finnish photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and, in 1969, they decided to head back up north and start working as a collective. ‘Some people chose butterflies,’ wrote Martin looking back. ‘I sought to reconnect myself with the working class culture and community which had nurtured me.’ He saw documentary as the act of a collector, collecting people through whom his vision could be articulated.

‘They were looking for a place where they could really embed themselves, with a strong sense of community,’ explains Amber member Graeme Rigby of the move to the North East. ‘Part of the attraction to marginalised cultures was the sense that those awe-inspiring working class contexts were disappearing.’  In addition, because Martin had done some teaching at Newcastle Polytechnic, he had contacts there and felt he could sort out paid jobs for members to help finance the collective. Things were fairly tough at the start and Konttinen even did a stint as a go-go dancer. All money earned by members of the collective was pooled and they paid themselves a very low wage – about £8 a week. This is still the same today, although what a member gets out depends somewhat on how much time he or she puts in. By Konttinen’s recent calculations, the minimum wage has been around £3 per week for the last three years.

To read the rest of this essay, please go to:

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

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