Daniel Meadows – The Bus

The course notes provide a link to Daniel Meadows that no longer exists. I have found a couple of others on Vimeo but not the intended interview “Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works”. I have viewed him talking about his book “The Bus” at https://vimeo.com/57256053. I don’t have access to his book but will refer to extracts available in Google books.

I had come across Daniel Meadows last year after visiting an exhibition of his work as the Bodleian Weston Library in Oxford. What struck me at the time, and even more so now, is the effort he put in to making his work as unmediated as possible. In comparison with other British documentary photography at the time there is no attempt to provide a specific context to the work other than the time and place. Other contemporaneous photographic project such as the work of the Amber collective, or Exit, placed their work in a political and economic context. Meadows did not supply any such explanations but instead allowed the subjects to just stand for themselves.

Guy Lane positions Meadows within the general youth environment of the time; post-hippie but still with a desire to explore serious alternative ideas. Meadows himself links his intentions to the ideas and lifestyle options put forward by Richard Neville in ‘Playpower’, and ‘Alternative England and Wales’ by Nicholas Saunders and others.

The idealistic, Utopian views described in these books fits with Meadows intentions for his proposed project. His idea of allowing the subjects to approach him, rather than the usual strategy of seeking out subjects, means he has much less authorial control than in other projects. In that sense the project becomes closer to the objective ideas put forward by Andre Bazin and Elizabeth McCausland. At least that was his intention; as he says in his diary entries printed in “The Bus”, he did have to provide a certain amount of direction if only to discourage v-signs and bared buttocks. Only a small intervention but it still shows how difficult it is to be solely an impartial recorder.

Lane compares Meadows’ project with other works at the time from Homer Sykes and Patrick Ward. Although all are concerned with documenting what they regard as a passing world, lives and environments that are being unwillingly forced to change, the comparison doesn’t seem truly fair. Sykes and Ward have both set out to look for the events, locations, and people to depict the disappearing world they are interested in. Daniel Meadows has no such preconceptions; he wants to just go out and see what happens.

If Meadows original intention was to avoid absolutely all surrounding context (especially not even names of his subjects), this is completely inverted by his subsequent project to revisit and re-photograph his subjects. Placing the two sets of images together – side by side but thirty years apart – provides a whole new narrative to the work. If, as Kendall L. Walton says, “the viewer of a photograph sees, literally, the scene that was photographed”(Walton,252), revisiting these images can only cloud this view into the past. We cannot help but see them in the context of how these people have changed in the intervening years.

A final curiosity from this research, of no significance but interesting all the same. Lane shows extracts from Daniel Meadows original leaflet, including a photograph of the bus he proposed to buy for his journey. This isn’t the same bus – JRR 404 – he ended up using. The bus he used is now at the transport museum at Wythall. Their website makes no mention of Daniel Meadows in conjunction with this particular bus.

References
Daniel Meadows talking about “The Bus” at https://vimeo.com/57256053

Extracts from “The Bus” at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=T0pmyRmgAq8C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Lane, G. (2011) ‘‘The Photographer as Recorder’: Daniel Meadows, Records, Discourse and Tradition in 1970s England’ In: photographies 4 (2) pp.157–173.

Walton, K. L. (s.d.) Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism. In: Photography and Philosophy. Directed by Walton, K.L. (s.l.). pp.14–49. At: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470696651.ch1

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