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Daniel Meadows. Living Like This, the 'Free Photographic Omnibus', 1973-74.

Daniel Meadows. Living Like This, the 'Free Photographic Omnibus', 1973-74.

Meadows is best understood as a storyteller. On the cover of his very first book: 'Living Like This, Around Britain in the Seventies' (Arrow, 1975), his intention is clear: 'Written and photographed by Daniel Meadows'. Words and pictures.

'Living Like This' is Meadows' account of his adventures in the 'Free Photographic Omnibus' between September 1973 and November 1974, when he travelled to 22 different towns and cities offering free portrait sessions and collecting stories. In recounting the book's many tales, the 23 year-old is clear about his documentary ambitions: I hope everyone who reads the stories will be able to enjoy a snatch of life as it is lived by someone else. For it is only by appreciating each other's circumstances that we can hope to improve our world.

In the Hyman Collection is a selection of rare vintage prints that embody some of the stories Meadows found as he reached out to strangers from the travelling gallery and darkroom of his converted double-decker bus.

Here is Ron Ackers, a tattooist from under the railway arches in Portsmouth, who had seen better days; like his time in Berlin during the 1950s, when he parked his tattooing van outside clubs and pubs frequented by soldiers and worked through the night. "When Britain was respected throughout the world - nowadays I'd be arrested," he said.

Some of the pictures Meadows made in the 'seventies later broke free of their original context as they were repeatedly presented and re-presented by publishers and curators. Like his 'Butlin's Boy' from Filey. First exhibited at Impressions Gallery, York, in 1972, the photograph was later reproduced in the 'Real Britain' postcard edition by the photo co-op Co-Optic. It also appeared in Martin Parr's big touring retrospective (2002-06). Later still, in 2008, English rock band Starsailor used it on the cover of their album 'All The Plans'.

Something that distinguishes Meadows' approach is his unceasing curiosity about the 'felt life' of those he has encountered. So intense is it that he has revisited many of his subjects for an update, making new pictures and recordings.

Another vintage print in the collection depicts Lynn and Stella Brasher, two sisters from Hampshire photographed in Southampton in May 1974. They not only appear on the cover of 'Living Like This' but also on the cover of Meadows' later book 'The Bus, the Free Photographic Omnibus 1973-2001' (The Harvill Press, 2001). Here, a quarter-of-a-century after the event, Meadows tracks down many of those who first posed in 1974. He finds that the Brasher sisters are now both divorced, on their second marriages yet full of ambition for their children. "Something I've always resented," says Stella, "is that I was never channelled into doing anything... I'm creative and I've never had a career and I do resent that slightly."

Asked what singular quality best describes the times through which he has lived, photographed and made audio recordings, Meadows replied: "Yearning."

Note: there have been two 'Living Like This' radio documentaries. The first was for BBC Radio 4, r/t 30 min, transmitted 10 June 1996, repeated 10 August 1997, produced by Alan Dein and Mark Burman. A more recent piece was for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radiotonic podcast, r/t 15 min, 2016 (upcoming), produced by Olivia Humphreys.



British Photography / The Hyman Collection

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