Meadows discusses some of his work (another link not that of OCA)
Meadows work as already pointed out is uncomplicated. The shots that he has taken at least at first glance seem relatively unremarkable and probably he was using his camera from a visual stance that other photographers of his time would of done visually speaking, in the spirit of ‘straight photography’.
The free photographic omnibus was an interesting project set up by Meadows as a way of making a documentary project of Great Britain. He converted an old bus to be able to live upstair whilst having a studio downstairs. This enabled him to drive around England taking images and giving free copies of the images to the people he photographed.
His idea was to make a ‘cross section’ photography project of the British isles in order to document in the form of ‘straight photography’, the ways, habits and traditions of the English. He also wanted to especially document the ways of life in some communities that were to become extinct such as the Bolton community of greater Manchester. The particular social changes that were taking place were seen to be for the greater good and in fact in the end proved to have the opposite effect in some cases.
Lane states that for Meadows the work that he was about to do could be seen in the light of advocacy in terms of being a reflection of the issues of over-population, pollution and poor living conditions (Lane, 2011 ). In reading this article we get the sense of how British documentary was being conducted before and up to this time and how Meadows was influenced to talk about producing a ‘straight form’ of photography, referring to an objective form of practice believed to be transparent and truthful to the objective situation without artistry. The terms use highlights the way in which photographers were seen to work being noted as ‘recorders’ of events and photographers were associated as: ‘anonymous self-effacing men who were content to work unrecognised’ (Turner, 1974 cited in: Lane, 2011).
Lang uses as a structure to evaluate the work of Meadows, the work of Foucault: ‘The archeology of knowledge’. This enables him to study the process that Meadows undertakes and to give clear articulation to the photographers intentions thus placing the photographic project in a context of understanding photography.
In Meadow’s appeal to raise funds for the project and in writing about himself via a proposal he states: ‘The only qualification I have for undertaking this work is that I am interested’ (Meadows, cited in: Lane, 2011).Drawing out further the point of objective recording and non-interference by the photographer, this point is reflected on by Lane as being seen as a potential boon: to be modest about one’s abilities and seeing therefore the greater objective potential within the project due to lack of professional training and experience. In some ways this might make sense although I suspect that even if this is the case, the amateur photographer will still have some unconscious drives towards taking a particular image that will influence it.
During the period of the Free photographic omnibus and in relation to Meadows proposal the Arts council of Great Britain was still only just beginning to recognise photography as a potential medium and expression as a creative art form. The zeitgeist within photography of the times was either commercial or straight. As such other art forms were seen as superior to to photography. With the formation of the first board of photographers as part of the Arts council the arrival of such figurers as David Hurn, Peter turner and photography historian, Aron Scharf.
Lane points out that in the proposal there seems to be a contradiction between the photographers statement of intent for the project and the actual work carried out. His initial introduction Meadows talks about needing to document now the England that is, given that the the times are about to change being subject to over population, environmental pollution and over social ills. In the image that I have seen I see very little evidence of Meadows documenting such things. His photos appear largely to be of people as straight unposed photographer, contextualise with a background that fits the overall photo. However, as Lang point out, the zeitgeist of the times with other photographers such as Ray Jones and others was to show a humorous and even parodied side to the English. The fun making of the photo style of the times is not absent from Meadows photography but I wonder that if a lack of reattach into his subject didn’t inhibit his more rounded expression and documentation as to what his intention apparently was.
Lane, B.“The Photographer as Recorder”: Daniel Meadows, Records, Discourse and Tradition in 1970s England [online] https://www-tandfonline-com.ucreative.idm.oclc.org/doi/full/10.1080/17540763.2011.595594 [accessed December 2019]
Lane, G. (2011), Peter Turner: Opinion, Creative Camera, No.115, January cited in (1974) [online] https://doi.org/10.1080/17540763.2011.595594 [accessed December 2019]
Lane, G. (2011) Daniel Meadow: The free photographic omnibus [online] https://doi.org/10.1080/17540763.2011.595594 [accessed December 2019]