For Ever Amber: documenting the everyday lives of people in England’s North-East

The Amber Film & Photography Collective was founded in 1969 in England’s North East to record the everyday lives of disadvantaged and marginalised groups in the region.

Now, the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle are exhibiting the first major retrospective of the collection, inscribed onto the UK UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011.

Amber is a film and photography collective incorporating Amber Films, Side Gallery and Side Cinema. It provides a context for photographers to engage with disadvantaged and marginalised communities in the North of England, whether they are members or commissioned by the collective. The collective is rooted in social documentary, which sets out to capture the ordinary lives of people living in a niche and transformative point in the UK’s history.

Amber Films member Graeme Rigby said:

“The tradition that Amber really responded to was the British documentary movement of the 30s and 40s. An awful lot of that work is, just because of the nature of the equipment and how the films were made, choreographing and trying to capture a reality.

“When Amber set out to do this it may be they didn’t realise the extent of the changes that were coming, but that is what has been captured”.

The exhibition includes Finnish photographer and founding member Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s Byker Series which documents a terraced house community in Newcastle upon Tyne’s East End. Also included are Tish Murtha’s Youth Unemployment Series and an array of characterful portraits from Amber’s favourite haunt, The Northumberland Arms – a colourful pub where a portrait studio was set up in 1981.

The Amber Collective has made a short video synopsis of the exhibition narrated by Graeme Rigby that displays some of the richness of the exhibition.

The UK UNESCO Memory of the World Register is a catalogue of the world’s most prized documentary and archival heritage.

From 1992, Peter Fryer's picture is titled Peaceable Kingdoms

From 1992, Peter Fryer’s picture is titled Peaceable Kingdom The exhibition, entitled For Ever Amber, features more than 150 photographs and film clips capturing over half a century of cultural, political and economic changes in the region, and will be open until the 19 September 2015