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photo-eye Book Reviews: Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows, Photographs by Daniel Meadows.
Published by Photoworks, 2011.
Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70s and 80s
Reviewed by Colin Pantall
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Daniel Meadows Daniel Meadows
Photographs by Daniel Meadows. Authored by Val Williams
Photoworks, 2011. Hardbound. 248 pp., color and duotone illustrations throughout, 10-1/4x8-1/4".

In 1973, Daniel Meadows got a UK Arts Council grant of £750. He bought a double-decker bus, converted the top deck into a bedroom, fitted a toilet, kitchen and darkroom and converted the bottom deck into an exhibition space. With all his equipment in place, Meadows hit the road. His goal; to provide a photographic survey of the people of England.

Portraits from the series Photographic Omnibus form the heart of Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70s and 80s. The directness, open curiosity and charismatic anonymity of the pictures make them a UK antithesis to Richard Avedon's star subjects of the American West.

Daniel Meadows, by Daniel Meadows. Published by Photoworks, 2011.
The bus portraits are relaxed, with a range of smiles that could be lined up in grids and displayed on the walls of Tate Modern. From Southampton, Meadows gives us the Brasher sisters, Lyn's face wreathed in a smile that is game-show-hostess delighted. Resplendent in their Bay City Rollers style tartan jackets, a pair of friends from Barrow-in-Furness have questioning smiles for the cameras, the guy on the left sporting a Manchester United scarf and a haircut from a Farrelly Brothers movie.

Daniel Meadows, by Daniel Meadows. Published by Photoworks, 2011.
Daniel Meadows, by Daniel Meadows. Published by Photoworks, 2011.
It's bad teeth, bad skin, and bad hair, the Big Book of British Smiles come to life on the page, Meadows' unpaid and unsaying sitters ("Running the free portraits sessions was a discipline. It was a Quaker thing....") addressing the camera with curiosity, bemusement and sometimes a disturbing intensity.

As well as the Omnibus pictures, there are also excerpts from Meadows' earlier free studio project from Moss Side, Manchester, some colour shots from his time working at Butlins' Holiday Camp (with Martin Parr) and his later under-appreciated suburban documentation of the conservative 1980s in full flow.

Daniel Meadows, by Daniel Meadows. Published by Photoworks, 2011.
With an accompanying text by Val Williams that details the figures, funding and development of British photography from the early 1970s, Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70s and 80s is a wonderful book that hits the visual high notes year after year.—COLIN PANTALL

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COLIN PANTALL is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of Wired.com’s favourites earlier this year

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