Listen to Daniel Meadows talking about his work:http:/vimeo.com/283493363#
Then read the essay ‘The Photographer as Recorder’ by Guy Lane.
Core resources-GuyLane .pdf
The Free Photographic Omnibus
Between 1973 and 1974 Daniel Meadows travelled 10,000 miles around England in a double decker bus , visiting twenty-two towns and photographing 958 people. His intended aim to capture a “straight photographic record of the English today” . Aged 21 he had recently finished art school and describes himself as a “documentarist not a conventional photographer“. The bus became his home for fourteen months and was additionally his studio and dark room. As an inducement to persuade people to take part each subject was to receive a free portrait print of themselves.
He discusses being “immensely curious about the world” and how he wanted ordinary people to be “empowered”. He was not interested in commercial photography , nor trying to flatter, he was intent with meeting and talking to people , listening to their stories , no matter how everyday they were. He became an intermediary for other peoples stories believing “ each of us is unique”. On his website http://www.photobus.co.uk Meadows mentions the significance of the title of the project, the Latin word omnibus translates to ‘for all the people’. The project concluded with an exhibition and book both entitled Living like this in1975.
In the essay Lane considers the leaflet that Meadows used to publicise his plan to undertake a documentary survey and gain funding. The leaflet states Meadows intentions and contextualises his approach. Lane also examines the unpretentious straightforward photograph of Meadows on the flyer , which along with the text denotes how the project will be recorded.
In 1999 Meadows returned to the project with the aim of re-photgraphing subjects from the original series. Some of the original subjects had died and unfortunately he had took no names so was initially unable to contact his former subjects. Following appeals in local newspapers people began to make contact with him. The paired images make interesting viewing , a study of time and change. One group of men , mostly now married and working , former Boot Boys during the early 70’s , were less than pleased to find their images in the local newspaper pinned around their workplace ! (They did have their photo taken again though) . Meadows points out a predicament facing all documentarists– are they exploitive or allies? What is evident listening to Daniel Meadows talking is his enthusiasm and total commitment to not only photography but giving ordinary people a voice.
Paradoxically its for the portraiture not the documentary element of The Free Photographic Omnibus that it is noted for now. An exhibition and book National Portraits curated by Val Williams in 1997 featured 41 images from the series of which 34 were portraits taken against a blank background. Meadow’s original edit of 150 images included few of these. Lane points out how William’s edit altered the original context.
I have to say I found the Guy Lane essay hard-going and difficult to follow.