John Payne, aged 12, with friends and his pigeon Chequer. Portsmouth, Mediadrumimages / Daniel Meadows / Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

By Mark McConville

 

A NEW book has captured the life of England’s ‘great ordinary’ over a period of twenty-five years.

Stunning pictures showcased in the book show portraits of people in 1974 and the same people photographed again around 25 years later.

The incredible images include twin brothers pictured as children in 1974 and again 21 years later, a group of men called the bootboys in 1974 and again in 1995 and a middle-aged woman in 1974 who has aged considerably by 1999.

Michael and Peter McParland. Twin brothers from Barrow-in-Furness. Mediadrumimages / Daniel Meadows / Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Now and Then by self-described documentarist Daniel Meadows explores how the Gloucestershire-born figure has captured “the extraordinary aspects of ordinary life.”

The photographs showcased in the book also form an eye-opening exhibition at Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries.

“My rule of thumb when doing documentary work is always to try to treat people as individuals, not types,” said Daniel Meadows.

Daniel Meadows is a pioneer of contemporary British documentary practice. His photographs and audio recordings made over forty-five years, capture the life of England’s ‘great ordinary’. Challenging the status quo by working collaboratively, he has fashioned from his many encounters a nation’s story both magical and familiar.

The ‘bootboys’ in 1995. Mediadrumimages / Daniel Meadows / Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

His new book covers the full range of his ground-breaking projects, drawing on his archives now held at the Bodleian Library. Fiercely independent, Meadows devised many of his creative processes. He ran a free portrait studio in Manchester’s Moss Side in 1972, and then travelled 10,000 miles making a national portrait from his converted double-decker bus called the Free Photographic Omnibus, a project he revisited a quarter of a century later.

The Free Photographic Omnibus on Granada TV’s Granada Reports. Image photographed from the TV screen and included in Daniel Meadows’ Digital Story Mrs Emare. Manchester, February Mediadrumimages / Daniel Meadows / Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The exhibition is comprised of 17 pairs of portraits which depict the same people 25 years apart (1970s – late 1990s). The display also features 16 short films about his subjects as well as giant news clippings showing how Meadows reached out via local media to find his subjects. The exhibition marks the recent and important gift of Daniel Meadows’ photographic archive to the Bodleian Libraries and is supported by the Bern Schwartz Foundation.

Karen Cubin and Barbara Taylor. Daughter and mother from Barrow-in-Furness. 1974 and 1995. Mediadrumimages / Daniel Meadows / Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian said: “Daniel Meadows is one of Britain’s national treasures. He is one of our great documentary photographers. His work is both concerned and humane, and engages individuals and communities thoughtfully and sympathetically.

“His body of work, stretching for almost fifty years, charts major social changes in Britain, but always has the lives and lived experiences of people at its heart. Through his photographs, videos and other material from his archive, Daniel provides a unique perspective on British society in recent decades.

Florence Snoad in 1974. Mediadrumimages / Daniel Meadows / Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

“We are truly honoured to have been gifted his archive which will be a major resource for scholars, and an inspiration for photographers.”

Now and Then: England 1970-2015, by Daniel Meadows and published by The Bodleian Library, is available now. £25.