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National Media Museum Opens Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works

The National Media Museum presents the first retrospective of the career of Daniel Meadows – photographer, documentarian, digital storyteller and unofficial co-founder of a uniquely British photography movement.

Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works, curated by Val Williams, is a free-to-enter exhibition open to the public from 1 October 2011 through 19 February 2012.

In the early 1970s Daniel Meadows embarked on a journey to create a social snapshot of Britain, breaking with photography tradition and infusing the medium with new energies and ways of seeing.

His practice developed at Manchester Polythechnic, where he trained alongside fellow photographers Martin Parr, Brian Griffin, Charlie Meecham and Peter Fraser. Together they spearheaded a new documentary movement intent on establishing an independent method for making and disseminating photographs, outside the existing conventions of commercial practitioners and photojournalists.

Meadows’ resulting work displays complexity and passion, and confers a personal and sometimes deeply autobiographical imprint. During his career he has produced an astonishing record of urban British society, working in a uniquely collaborative way, through photography, digital stories and recorded interviews, to capture extraordinary aspects of everyday life.

His career began in 1972, when he opened a photographic studio in a former barber’s shop in the Moss Side area of Manchester. The Shop on Greame Street features residents from the district who posed for a portrait which they then received free of charge. None has been previously exhibited, and a selection will be on public display for the first time from October.

Two further early projects are also included in the exhibition, both undertaken in partnership with Martin Parr. June Street, 1973, is an intimate portrayal of working class households in an area of Salford, which have since been demolished. Butlin’s by the Sea, 1972, presents a fascinating record of the holiday camp in Filey, North Yorkshire, just after the heyday of this style of British resort.

In 1973, Meadows, aged 21, also bought a 25-year-old Leyland PD1 double-decker bus for £360.20. He removed the seats to make space for a darkroom and living quarters and named it the Free Photographic Omnibus. He spent 14 months taking his Greame Street studio philosophy of free portraits on tour around England. Original photographs from the journey appear in the retrospective, along with a selection from a follow-up project in which Meadows sought out his Photobus subjects more than 20 years later to re-photograph them for National Portraits: Now and Then, 1995 – 2000.

Other notable works displayed include Decline in the Cotton Industry, 1975 – 1978, Welfare State International, 1976 – 1983, and Nattering in Paradise, 1984 – 1987. The gallery will also screen a selection of Meadows’ Digital Storytelling films. Condensing personal stories into two-minute features of approximately 250 heartfelt words and 12 images, he created “multimedia sonnets from the people”, leading American commentator J.D Lasica to call him “one of the icons of the Digital Storytelling movement.”

This exhibition and the accompanying publication is the product of research by Professor Val Williams as part of an ongoing study into British photography of 1970s and 1980s at the University of the Arts London. It is preceded by the research project, The New British Photography, 1968-1981, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Together Val Williams and Daniel Meadows have brought to light the photographer’s incredible archive of prints and negatives, along with ephemera and audio recordings. They have unearthed unpublished and sometimes forgotten treasures which add to a remarkable document – a dramatic, moving and empathetic evocation of a recognisable, yet increasingly alien era.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, published by Photoworks .The project has been funded and supported by a partnership between the National Media Museum; Ffotogallery, Cardiff; Birmingham Central Libraries; Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC), University of the Arts London and Photoworks UK.

This exhibition forms part of ‘Ways of Looking’, a new photography festival in Bradford, 1-30 October 2011.

Donovan Wylie Exhibition presented in partnership with Bradford College and University of Bradford.

Free entry to Museum and exhibitions
Information: 0844 856 3797

Image: mage: Brighton, Sussex, from Free Photographic Omnibus, 1794.

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