Agency of Women

Behind the scenes of Agency of Women

New for 2021, artist-in-residence Tabitha Jussa presents Agency of Women, a collection of black and white and hand coloured portraits inspired by Margaret Hardman, the female workforce employed by the Hardmans and the women who had their portraits taken at 59 Rodney Street.

You can see the exhibition as part of a guided tour of the Hardmans’ House, which will open between 17 September – 6 November on Fridays and Saturdays only. Book your tickets here.

The exhibition features a series of portraits taken by Tabitha of women at the heart of Liverpool’s cultural scene today, who all share many of Margaret Hardman’s qualities and talents. She has been inspired by the style and photographic techniques used by the Hardmans’ studio to create their glamorous portraits of women.

A portrait of a woman taken by Mr Hardman

Coloured by the archive

The Hardmans’ vast archive is housed at Liverpool Central Library. It comprises negatives, printed photographs, business records and personal papers. As part of the project, Tabitha was granted access and became inspired by the photographic prints she found, many of which had been painstakingly hand coloured by freelance artists. These artists were mostly highly skilled women working from home.

" This glimpse behind the scenes was fascinating. Rarely do you see the work that goes into a final photograph, and it made me think about who was involved."
- Tabitha Jussa
Contact sheets of portraits taken by Tabitha Jussa

Studio photography

The Hardmans’ collection of formal portraiture gives a rare glimpse into an almost forgotten form of photography, with the poses and styling of many of the prints reflecting the golden age of Hollywood. Inspired by this, Tabitha has used the Hardmans’ studio to take her portraits using a Mamiya RB67 camera and a selection of lenses to create a range of specific effects.

" The Hardmans’ employed numerous tricks and techniques, and it is this behind the scenes magic that has informed my own approach to the work."
- Tabitha Jussa
Tabitha Jussa inside the Hardmans' House looking in a mirror

About Tabitha Jussa

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

Tabitha Jussa 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.

Delve deeper

Follow the @theagencyofwomen Instagram here to go behind-the-scenes of this exciting project. You can also follow the Hardmans' House on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @NTHardmansHouse.