Recently Redeye Photography Network gave me the opportunity to meet a true inspiration, documentary photographer Daniel Meadows. Educated privately, Meadows as a young man didn’t have the opportunity to mix with many and developed a love affair with a film camera using it as he says as “a passport through the classes”. He used photography as a way to meet people, hear their stories, and document the beautiful in the ordinary.
Meadows studied at Manchester Polytechnic alongside Martin Parr and after graduating in 1972, opened a free photographic studio in a disused barber shop on Graeme Street, located in the working class area of Moss Side in Manchester. He would photograph the locals and at the end of the week, prints were displayed in the window for people to take if they wished.
Meadows offers many ideas on ways to gain the trust of potential sitters. In one case, he and Parr handwrote letters to all the residents of a street asking for people wanting free portraits.
Sometime later, Meadows managed to gather a small sum from the Arts Council for a project called the Free Photographic Omnibus – Omnibus in Latin meaning “for all”. Meadows purchased a double-decker bus, converted the top of the bus into a darkroom and the bottom into a studio. Traveling the length and breadth of the country, he captured images of the working classes. His images not only provide important historic social commentary but evoke memories of the joys and traumas life has to offer.
Twenty-five years later, Meadows decided to publish the images via the local press and try to find his sitters to create a second chapter to the story. As you can imagine, the developments in people’s lives were vastly different and he talked during the seminar of how his work seemed to take on its own life, with people reacting to it all over the world via the virtual community.
In 1974, Meadows photographed Florence Alma Snoad and years later in Slovenia, the images inspired composer Brina Jez Brezavscek to write a piece of music telling of her story.
During Daniel’s discussion he spoke about his projects over the years telling us about his relationship with photography and the journey it had taken him on. His most recent projects are called Digital Stories where he captures sound and image creating small video stories. As I watched his work, I found it very emotional knowing that some of these people may have left the physical world but a true essence of them had been captured forever. I could see their faces, hear their voices, and the way they have been put together gave me an insight into Meadows’ world.
For me, in life there are people who don a shirt and tie and devote themselves to materialist possession, they miss the small beautiful things that are going on all around them. Then they are people like Daniel Meadows, “a noticer of things” be it grammatically correct or not. That’s how I see him and his work. He’s seen the beautiful and majestic in the ordinary and tragic and frames it for us all to see.
If you would like to see some of Daniels Meadows’ Digital Stories here’s a link to his site