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Under The Cover:

Martha Skye Murphy's

Black Eye


Martha Skye Murphy is a singer from South London. Her powerful, melancholic voice led her to sing backing vocals for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, before launching a solo project which has been praised by critics (and Cave) for its stark, melancholic production and arresting vocal . We asked Martha to tell us about working with her sister Ceidra Moon Murphy, a photographer, and renowned designer Chris Bigg, on the artwork for her latest single Black Eye. 

I have been my sister Ceidra Moon Murphy’s subject for as long as she has been taking pictures; our tastes are symbiotic. Our father is a photographer (Ben Murphy) so was continuously introducing us to the artists he was inspired by and interested in when we were growing up. Daisuke Yakota and Stephen Gill were favourites of ours. Their conceptual approaches to image taking and experimental embrace of new techniques and processes incorporating nature’s decay within this technical medium were the main source of inspiration for the Black Eye series. We took the images in the New Forest on a 35mm film Olympus camera on a cold winter’s day, thorns pricking my feet, expectant of hooves. 


Ceidra planned to manipulate the images afterwards, by burying them or defacing the negatives when we had them. An hour after Ceidra had taken the roll of film to be developed the lab called her up evasively saying that one of the rolls had been destroyed in their machine and that unfortunately, they would be returning her a voucher not the photographs. Ceidra insisted on having the scans regardless and they had this mysterious chemical imbalance, stains in odd places and unusual saturations as a result of the automatic destruction the machine had conducted of them. This was serendipitously in line with our intentions for the photographs. The notion that the digital process had rejected the analogue footage complemented the references in my song to nouvelle vague cinema and dramatic chansons of a forgotten era. Ceidra then further adapted the pictures to highlight their decomposition. Ceidra’s work is concerned with questioning conventions of communication, she explains: ‘In this series the physical disintegration of the negative blurs what is fact and fiction. Rather than reflecting reality, this body of work aims to create a photographic materiality, where the focus shifts from the subject to the object.’


Ceidra and I showed the pictures to artist and designer Chris Bigg of V23 (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, The Pixies, David Lynch) and he chose the image he wanted to work with for ‘Black Eye’. Bigg’s iconic album artworks are meticulously created to inhabit the spirit of the music they are for: he combines unique lettering with abstract graphic imagery thus complementing my method of abstracted storytelling and Ceidra’s photographic explorations of semantics. 

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