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Charlotte Corrie and Christina Grogan.

Tabitha Jussa, an award-winning artist, photographer and National Trust artist in residence, who also works as an Art Technician in the University’s Department of Art and Design, is presenting Agency of Women.

The collection of black and white and hand coloured photographic portraits of women making an impact in Liverpool’s cultural life is inspired by the city’s renowned mid 20th-century photographers, E. Chambré and Margaret Hardman. Their 1950s home and photographic studio in its Georgian Quarter, now preserved and cared for by the National Trust, is currently hosting the exhibition.

Supported by Arts Council England, the exhibition is presented in partnership with the National Trust, Open Eye Gallery and the University of Chester.

People can see the portraits as part of a guided tour of the Hardmans' House on Fridays and Saturdays during May. Places sold out quickly when the images went on display for the first time last year, so people are urged to book soon to avoid missing out.

As the first artist in residence of the Hardmans’ House, former Liverpool Art Prize-winner Tabitha was given special access to the vast archive of the Hardmans’ photographs housed at Liverpool Central Library.

“As our first ever artist in residence, it was really exciting to see what Tabitha would make of the huge and varied E. Chambré Hardman Photographic Collection,” said Michelle Yunqué Alvarado, Collections and House Manager at the National Trust.

“There are so many different aspects to it, from countryside landscapes and photographs of Liverpool’s mid 20th-century transformation to portraits of some of the celebrities of the age.”

After delving into the archive, Tabitha became particularly drawn to the many glamorous portraits of women, and the style and techniques used by the Hardmans’ studio to reflect the golden age of Hollywood.

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Tabitha Jussa © McCoy Wynne 2022.
Tabitha Jussa © McCoy Wynne 2022.
“Changes in camera technology make replication of the Hardmans’ distinctive signature portraits virtually impossible,” said Tabitha. “My access to the archive inspired me to produce works that explored the portrait genre the Hardmans used.”

One aspect of this genre Tabitha has explored is the way many of the Hardmans’ portraits were painstakingly hand coloured by freelance artists, who were mostly women working from home. Packages of photographic prints were sent out to them, as well as snippets of dress material, lipstick, and hair samples, to accurately match colours.

“I was inspired by these forgotten hand colouring techniques and the highly skilled women who used them, as well as the way the female sitters who were having their portraits taken wanted to be represented,” Tabitha, who lives in Liverpool, said.

“There’s also Margaret Hardman, who was a shrewd businesswoman and vital to the success of their studio. This led me to think about the makers and managers in Liverpool’s cultural scene today who also share these qualities.”

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Bisakha Sarker MBE.
Bisakha Sarker MBE.

In early 2020, Tabitha invited a number of women at the heart of Liverpool’s cultural scene to take part and have their portrait taken in the photographic studio at the Hardmans’ House.

Using a Mamiya RB67 camera and a selection of lenses to create a range of specific effects, Tabitha photographed a total of 17 women, including: Claire McColgan MBE (Director of Culture Liverpool); Stealing Sheep (Artists, Musicians, Songwriters); The Singh Twins MBE (Artists) and Angela Samata (Arts Professional and Ambassador of Survivors of the Bereaved by Suicide). Tabitha then used a range of the ‘forgotten’ techniques used by the Hardmans’ to bring their portraits to life.

Sarah Fisher, Director of Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, said: "The Hardmans’ House, as a unique visitor experience, allows us to understand how central photographic studios were to civic life. This intelligent exhibition by an exceptional contemporary talent, Tabitha Jussa, explores portraits of key women who are driving our cultural renaissance - a key factor in Liverpool's civic and economic model.

“Jussa reflects on the aesthetics and practical processes employed by Hardman to inspiring effect, situating these portraits within the traditions of studio photography."

Full list of sitters:

  • Angela Samata – Arts Professional and Ambassador of the Survivors of the Bereaved by Suicide;
  • Bisakha Sarker MBE – Artistic Director of Chaturangan, Artist;
  • Mary Cloake – Director of Bluecoat, Liverpool;
  • Charlotte Corrie and Christina Grogan – Founders and Directors of Open Culture (in image at top of page);
  • Claire McColgan MBE  – Director of Culture Liverpool;
  • Doreen Allan – Founder of Planet X Liverpool;
  • Elaine Clarke – Founder and Owner of Baa Bar Ltd;
  • Emily Speed – Artist;
  • Stealing Sheep – Artists, Musicians, Songwriters;
  • Madeline Heneghan – Co-Director of Writing on the Wall;
  • Helen Legg – Director of Tate Liverpool;
  • Michelle Charters – Director of Kuumba Imani Milennium Centre, National Museums Trustee, Community Activist;
  • Nicola Triscott – Director of FACT, Curator, Writer and Researcher;
  • The Singh Twins MBE – Artists and University of Chester honorary alumni;
  • Zilan Liao – Musician and Director of Pagoda Arts;
  • Niki Kand – Musician, Singer and Songwriter;
  • Fatoş Üstek – Independent Curator, Writer and Former Director of Liverpool Biennial.

For more information and to book, please visit: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardmans-house/features/agency-of-women.

ENDS

Further details

About Tabitha Jussa

Tabitha’s work offers a different approach to documentary photography, bridging the gap between the contemporary and the traditional. Her knowledge and skillset of film and printing includes darkroom techniques stretching back to the earliest days of photography, alongside digital processes. 

Tabitha has received several awards and commissions for her work, exhibiting nationally at galleries including: Open Eye Gallery and the Bluecoat, Liverpool; The Houses of Parliament, London; The Grundy, Blackpool; Ffotogallery, Penarth; Royal College of Art, London; and internationally at ShangART Gallery, Shanghai. She was the recipient of the Liverpool Art Prize 2014 Judges and People’s Choice Award. This project marks Tabitha’s first artist-in-residence commission for the National Trust and has been awarded Arts Council England funding.

About the National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people: Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, who saw the importance of the nation's heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. Today, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it continues to look after places so people and nature can thrive. 

The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have shown this is more important than ever. From finding fresh air and open skies to tracking a bee's flight to a flower; from finding beauty in an exquisite painting or discovering the hidden history of a country house nearby - the places we care for enrich people's lives. 

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and 500 historic properties, gardens and nature reserves.

The National Trust is for everyone - it was founded for the benefit of the whole nation. It receives on average more than 26.9 million visits each year to the places it cares for that have an entry fee, and an estimated 100m visits to the outdoor places that are free of charge. Paying visitors, together with its 5.6 million members and more than 53,000 volunteers, support its work to care for nature, beauty, history. For everyone, for ever.

About the Hardmans’ House

The Hardmans’ House is located on Liverpool’s Rodney Street, in the city’s Georgian Quarter, and was the home and photographic studio of E. Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret for 40 years.

The house and collections were acquired by the National Trust in 2003. Often described as a 1950s time capsule, visitors are able to explore four floors of the Georgian townhouse to see the photographic studio, developing room and even the couple’s cramped living quarters.

About E. Chambré Hardman

Born in Ireland, Edward Chambré Hardman established a highly successful photographic studio in Liverpool, becoming the leading portrait photographer in the city from the 1920s to the 1960s.

He is noted for his photographs of the British landscape and those that depict the industrial and commercial transformations occurring in Liverpool during the mid-20th Century, such as his most famous image, Birth of the Ark Royal. He also took portraits of many celebrities of the age including Ivor Novello, Patricia Routledge (one of the University of Chester’s honorary graduates,) Robert Donat and Margot Fonteyn.

Hardman lived and worked at 59 Rodney Street with his wife Margaret, who was an accomplished photographer in her own right, and who managed their successful business.

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