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Daniel Meadows. The Free Photographic Omnibus: Portraits (1973-1974)

Daniel Meadows. The Free Photographic Omnibus: Portraits (1973-1974)

The Hyman Collection includes 48 framed exhibition prints from Daniel Meadows' most famous body of work, the portraits he made whilst travelling on the Free Photographic Omnibus.

Daniel Meadows began to devise his approach to documentary practice while working as a student in Manchester's Moss Side. Influenced by the sixties' counter-culture, by photographic work from America published in Creative Camera and Album, as well as by his own generation's determination to find "alternative" ways of doing almost everything, he began running free photographic portrait sessions in the places that interested him. These events were not just about picture-making, they were his way into a community.

After college, when he lived in a converted double-decker bus, complete with darkroom and gallery, Meadows was able to deliver free portrait sessions more-or-less anywhere. Between the end of September 1973 and the beginning of November 1974, he ran twenty-two sessions in towns and cities across England photographing 958 people and, in the process, discovered many of the stories that would later appear in his first book Living Like This (Arrow, 1975).

A quarter-of-a-century after his journey in the Free Photographic Omnibus, as curators and editors renewed their interest in the 1970s, his Bus Portraits were re-presented. In the touring exhibition National Portraits: Photographs from the 1970s by Daniel Meadows (Viewpoint Gallery, Salford; Montage Gallery, Derby; National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford; Shoreditch Biennale, London; Irish Gallery of Photography, Dublin: 1997-2000), curator Val Williams presented them as works in their own right and they began to gain currency, both for their immediacy and for their picturing of fashions and faces which were very much of their time. It is prints from this 1997 exhibition that are now in the Hyman Collection.

Later still, displayed in sequence on a large hi-res screen, forty-one of these images were included in Tate's first major photography overview exhibition How We Are: Photographing Britain from the 1840s to the Present (Tate Britain, 2007).

Reviewing the Tate show for BBC Radio, novelist Esther Freud chose Meadows' pictures as her stand-out piece: It was incredibly moving... [Daniel Meadows] took these incredible very straight-forward photographs of people in their 'seventies clothes and, at the time after he'd done it, no one felt that they were particularly interesting or strange enough but now, looking at them, they're fascinating and they are certainly strange.

As the cultural commentator John Hartley has noted, the career of these pictures has spectacularly exceeded their origins, and the intentions of their maker.

The Hyman Collection is grateful to Daniel Meadows for his assistance in cataloguing these pictures.

British Photography / The Hyman Collection

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