Tag Archives: Daniel Meadows

Assignment 5 – A Very Private Lady

Assignment 5 is the final piece of work for Identity and Place and is a self-directed assignment.  Identity and Place as a unit is about thinking about how to tell stories of people, their lives and how the place they come from effects that.

While I was working on the unit my mother died and I found myself going though all her belongings. She never threw anything away. I found a massive collection of photographs from her childhood on, together with ones of her family, friends and all the places she had been to.  Most of these I had never seen before. They were collected in the traditional manner- not filed or sorted in any way but left in old print envelopes and stored in shoeboxes. Very few were labelled (and of the labelled envelopes some were clearly wrong – presumably reused). There was one early album that had a few of the people named that went up to about 1945.  Mixed in with the photographs were postcards, cuttings from newspapers, tickets, bills of sale for every house she had lived in and letters. I also found a written story of her and her family’s life up to the end of WWII that had partly been written by her and partly by one of her brothers and  a copy of a dissertation done by my cousin which told the hidden story of the treatment of Germans in America in WWII and the internment of many of them which included quotes from my mother and her family.

My mother had always been very reluctant to talk about her past life and I knew very little of it. In the final months of her life she had agreed to talk a little and we recorded what she said.

Assignment 5 is made up of some of her verbal story, 7 minutes cut from 2 hours of recording, together with a small fraction of the vast archive of pictures and memorabilia she had collected. Some of the photographs are captioned with explanations from her written story.

This piece leads directly on from the video I made for Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories. In that case I was interpreting my emotions about her words though my own images, while here I am using her own archives to tell the story more directly. It is more factual, more telling and I find it almost unbearable to watch.


Much of the research for this comes from the work done earlier in IAP and is described in Assignment 4. I have also looked at archival work and read the fascinating essay on it by Thinking about Archives by Susan Breakell. To some extent I approached this as a curator/archivist and so found the discussion I attended on this type of work by Susan Bright (see: Susan Bright Lecture) helpful for background knowledge. I have found several photographers work fed directly into my thoughts on how to present work that is essentially a memory piece and a tribute.  Murmurs by Martina Lindqvist talks about what is important at the end of life. Mother by Paul Graham (Graham, 2019) I find almost unbearably poignant. Larry Sultan in Pictures from Home (Sultan, 2017) was inspiring in its mix of found snapshots, storytelling and new photography. Deborah Orloff in Elusive Memory (Orloff, s.d.) talks about the connection between photographs and memory as do both Marianne Hirsch – Family Frames (Hirsch, 2012) and Annette Kuhn – Family secrets (Kuhn, 2002).

I have also done some research into the ways other people have used familial archives to produce pieces of work. Michael Abrams – Welcome to Springfield (Abrams, 2012)invented a whole story about a fictional town.  Daniel Meadows – Digital Stories (Meadows, s.d.)used his own memories and archive photos to produce short videos. Jim Goldberg – Gene (Goldberg, 2018) used the archive and story of an elderly man in Gene to tell about life and memories at old age, not dissimilar to the work of Julian Germain in  For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness (Germain and Snelling, 2011). Alexia Webster – Tracing Lives (Webster, 2020) and Catherine Panebianco (Panebianco, s.d.) both repurposed family images and mixed them with present day images to tell their personal stories.


I considered two ways of showing this

  • A video
  • A photobook with short quotes from her words
  • I eventually decided on a video because I felt that actually hearing her talk about her experiences was important, as her voice echoes her emotions.
  • Following discussion and feedback from the online IAP support network I have also made a photobook (a work in progress) from the images and others to form a lasting record for our family (see: Further Reflection on Assignment 5 with Added Book – My Mother’s Story)


  • I did a written transcript of all the recordings, then ordered them in time and tried to pick out the most important pieces. This was difficult and the recording could have easily lasted 20 minutes or more to give the details.
  • The level of her voice varies, partly I think due to how tired she was at any given moment, but also to how difficult she was finding telling some parts of the story.
  • I then went through all her collected memorabilia and found the photographs and cuttings that were relevant to this time period.
  • I made a version on a black background and on a white one. I eventually chose the black as it seemed to be clearer and fit the subject matter better.
  • The video was uploaded to Vimeo
  • Following feedback from my tutor I added a slightly more personal touch at the beginning and end of the original video.


Learning Points:

  • Looking though archives takes a long time, and you need to be ruthless about choosing images/memorabilia to use
  • This might have been a better project to do when I had achieved some emotional distance
  • It is very difficult to decide what is of more general interest against specific family interest
  • Small and old snapshots are hard to enlarge successfully as every mark shows
    • But – are the marks actually part of the story?
  • I need to start to archive (note use of the noun archive as a verb) my own work more carefully with more tags and names attached to people
  • Feedback from both peers and tutor really helps to make a more coherent piece of work.


This was a difficult piece of work to do and I am not convinced I have done it justice. I may yet rework it in the future. When reading the latest aperture I came across this quote ‘The archive is one of the spaces where that exchange takes place, where the living go to encounter the dead. It’s a strange business, summoning ghosts. For the most part the work is repetitive, an orderly, laborious process of logging and transcribing. But every once in a while, something happens. You look down, and beneath the surface someone looks back’ (Laing, 2020).


Abrams, M. (2012) Welcome to Springfield. Washington, D.C.: Loosestrife Editions.

Germain, J. and Snelling, C. (2011) For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness: portrait of an elderly gentleman. (Second edition) London: Mack.

Goldberg (2018) Jim Goldberg’s New Book is a Tender Portrait of Old Age • Magnum Photos. At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/society-arts-culture/jim-goldberg-gene/ (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Graham, P. (2019) Mother. London: MACK.

Hirsch, M. (2012) Family frames: photography, narrative, and postmemory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Kuhn, A. (2002) Family secrets: acts of memory and imagination. (New ed) London; New York: Verso.

Laing, O. (2020) ‘A Fold in Time’ In: aperture 239 p.95

Meadows, D. (s.d.) Digital Stories on Vimeo. At: https://vimeo.com/showcase/5268983 (Accessed 10/09/2020).

Orloff, D. (s.d.) Deborah Orloff. At: http://deborahorloff.com/ (Accessed 10/08/2020).

Panebianco, C. (s.d.) catherine panebianco. At: http://www.catherinepanebianco.com (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Sultan, L. (ed.) (2017) Pictures from home – Larry Sultan. London: Mack.

Webster, A. (2020) ‘Tracing lives: a visual response to coronavirus’ In: The Guardian 26/06/2020 At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/jun/26/tracing-lives-visual-response-to-coronavirus (Accessed 30/08/2020).

Daniel Meadows – Digital Stories

I have looked at Daniel Meadows work before – see Daniel Meadows – however had not come across his digital stories. Meadows has produced three short videos based on pictures from his family albums which he describes as ‘First-person scripted stories about the families I come from. Pictures and voice-over, told with feeling’ (Meadows, s.d.). In each he shows images with voice over to tell the story. They are short, funny, and engaging.

Polyfoto uses polyfotos (48 small square images in sepia) of his mother and father, to enable him to tell how his parents met, and his mother’s illness.  Scissors was made as a training video to show what could be done with pictures, transitions, and crossovers. The voiceover is accompanied by subtitles. The story leaves you wondering what happened. Young Shavers tells about his grandfather. The words of Meadows are played against a background of someone singing. The images bounce in and out.  New (or at least newer) images of Meadows as a child overlaid on images from his grandmother’s photo albums of her time in India in the Raj.

All three videos use different techniques for using archival family images to tell a short story.  I wish I had seen them before I made one. However, they will be useful for further exploration of video making and for adding in the personalising beginning and end of mine.


Meadows, D. (s.d.) Digital Stories on Vimeo. At: https://vimeo.com/showcase/5268983 (Accessed 10/09/2020).

Project 2 – The Aware – 2

When thinking about portraits as well as considering who you are going to photograph (Project 2 – The aware) you also need to consider where. Just as dividing up who you are going to photograph you can also divide up the place into types:

  1. Inside – examples of these are the June Street images by Parr and Daniel Meadows, Daniel Meadows 2 and the Mother series by Paul Graham
  2. Outside – many of the images of Eleanor taken by Harry Callahan

Both of the places can be further subdivided into:

  1. A natural environment – the images by Sian Davey in Martha and Looking for Alice.
  2. A studio, which can be further divided into:
    1. Formal – an example of this is the work Gone Astray by Clare Strand where people are photographed against a backdrop of a Victorian type frame
    2. Informal – the work of Irving Penn in Worlds in a Small Room could be considered as a relatively informal studio, in that it was portable, although it became more fixed as time went on. A more informal studio was shown in Daniel Meadows Omnibus Project where he travelled around with a converted bus.

Interestingly there is a recent series of work by Sandro Miller shown on Lenscratch  I am Papua New Guinea available at:


In this Miller went to Papua New Guinea on three occasions, set up a studio and offered the chance for people to come and have the photographs taken in all their finery. The images, although mainly in colour, are strongly redolent of Penn’s images of a similar area of the world. Like Penn, he noted that many of these people have had little or no previous awareness of a camera. However, Miller’s images do give more of a feeling of the person rather than just the exotica and he identifies the people both by name and tribe, rather than showing a group of images that are exciting but impersonal.

An example of photographs of people taken mainly outside, in a ‘natural’ environment, is the work of Andrea Modica – Treadwell.  Treadwell is ‘a place in the imagination…. a fiction about a little girl growing up’ (Modica and Proulx, 1996).  In the initial essay by E.Annie Proulx,  Modica describes how she  ‘entered into an intimacy with the situation of place’ and took a series of pictures, not all in the ‘real’ Treadwell that tell the life of a girl growing up in a series of decayed farmhouses and crowded places. The places are allegorical, essential to the meaning, often ghostly or reminiscent of death. Without the landscape the story would not be present. Without the children there would be nothing but depression and misery. Both together give a possibility of hope.


Drew, R., Chandler, D., Eskildsen, U., Jeffrey, I., Mullen, C. and Strand, C. (2009). Clare Strand : a Photoworks Monograph. Brighton: Photoworks ; Göttingen, Germany.

Graham, P. (2019). Mother. S.L.: Mack.

http://lenscratch.com/author/aline-smithson (2019). Sandro Miller: I am Papua New Guinea. [online] LENSCRATCH. Available at: http://lenscratch.com/2019/10/sandro-miller-i-am-papua-new-guinea/ [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019].

Modica, A. and Proulx, A. (1996). Treadwell. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Penn, I. (1974). Worlds in a Small Room. London: Secker & Warburg.

Siân Davey (2015). Looking for Alice. Great Britain: Trolley Ltd.

Siân Davey (2019). Martha. Hertfordshire: Trolleybooks.

Daniel Meadows 2

© Daniel Meadows

I have just listened to a fascinating podcast with Daniel Meadows in which he talks at length about his career and his thoughts on photography – A Small Voice episode 116. All the quotes here are from that podcast.

Meadows talks about his upbringing, how he was brought up in a very typecast structure, class related, boarding school, had a housekeeper. This led to interest in other people. He struggled with authority and argued in school which led to him spending much of his final year in the art department where he saw Bill Brandt exhibition – when he realised that Brandt moved across the class structure and showed it was possible to do so in photography.

Meadows met Martin Parr at Manchester Polytechnic, they would meet up regularly and immerse themselves in contemporary photography via magazines and films. This led on to Graeme Street project. ‘How do I respond to them tearing down the middle of the city?’. He invited people into a rented shop and ask them to tell their stories and take images. He then heard about and was influenced by the Irving Penn work that went on to become Worlds in a Small Room. Meadows said that in those days ‘Kids came first, and then they would bring their parents’.

My work has been about a way of generating chance encounters with strangers…. what came through the door was so inspiring…..a brilliant portrait of Britain’. To make money he spent the summer as a photographer in Butlins, taking images both at random in the camp and at formal events ‘The walkie photographers….. there I started using colour, Ektachrome slides.’  At that point he hadn’t seen much colour work, as most of the inspiring work was still black and white.

June Street with Martin Parr came about following a visit to the Coronation Street sets. The streets were being torn down so they looked for the last remaining street and photographed everybody in there. They were done as a typology, looking towards the sofa, with every living creature in the photo.

Then came the Omnibus Project, which had multiple problems, the bus was always breaking down, it was difficult to find places to stop. He talked about working on my own. ‘You are lonely….you are scared….I slept in places where people tried to break in in the night….but generally people would open up ….. you listened to people…… I was beginning to think about what is documentary all about….I was a beginning to say “I will put you in the history books”’. Many years later these images were put on as an exhibition, he then reconnected with as many of the people as possible via local newspapers and re-photographed the people and put the new with the original images. Meadows is very definite that the story is about the individual people and not a typology.

Nowadays he says, you need to learn how to listen, that there is a story to be had on every street. Then a camera was novel, this is now not the case. How do you work now? ‘You are different from the people you are working with…. so, what can you add? Can you get other people to tell their own story?’ Now many people do on Facebook etc. But this can be very ‘dismissive of other people’ and often very ‘shouty’. ‘Can you write things without swearing and make people cry?’

 “I spent a lot of my life wishing that I’d taken pictures like Cartier-Bresson or Diane Arbus or Bill Brandt. And it took me a long while to learn that I’d actually taken pictures like Daniel Meadows.”  He says he has a loathing of advertising photography. Meadows then talks about the perceived differences between art and documentary and that galleries want ‘art’ not documentary – why is documentary a ‘second-class thing’?  His work has now gone to the Bodleian Library at Oxford where they have taken everything – all the pieces of writing, all the journals, all the recordings, all the history.

Meadows ends by saying ‘Everybody has to invent their own way…You have to sit down and say to yourself why do I want to take pictures… who am I doing it for…what is my subject matter… I you don’t know your subject matter you are never going to make good pictures, important ones’.





Project 2 – The aware

With the exception of candid street photography all images of people involve some degree of awareness on the part of the subject. However, the degree of involvement does vary. It can be divided into 3 main types:

  1. The subject is having their portrait taken on one occasion either as:
    1. A deliberate choice on the part of the subject such as a formal portrait
    2. A choice on the part of the photographer such as a requested photograph of a stranger in the street. Examples of these are the June Street series by Daniel Meadows and the work done by Tom Wood see:  Project 1 – The unaware – 2 where he became the Photie Man.
  2. An ongoing portrait series of a person or a group of people either taken over several days or even years where the subject, although known to the photographer, is not emotionally involved. An example is the series in the face of silence (Agou, 2011) by Christophe Agou.
  3. An ongoing series of portraits of someone who is well known to the photographer such as family or a close friend. Examples here are Mother (Graham, 2019) by Paul Graham and Big Brother (Quail, 2018) by Louis Quail and the photographs of his wife Eleanor by Harry Callahan.

Another example of type 3 is Looking for Alice by Siân Davey in which she tells the story of the life of her daughter, Alice, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and the impact this has on the family’s life. In the foreword she says ‘the process of photographing this work has helped me shine a light on why I struggled to love Alice, which was essentially fear and uncertainty …. she is now in the middle of everything that we do as a family and is loved unconditionally’ (Davey, 2015).  Davey went on to produce a book of images about her older daughter, Martha, at her request (Davey, 2019). She talks at length about her life and motivation for taking these images in a podcast  A Small Voice – Siân Davey.

These categories can become blurred, especially the latter two, when a series continues over several years. This is very noticeable in the work for every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness (Germain and Snelling, 2014) by Julian Germain, where he started off with an unknown subject Mr Snelling, who he got to know very well over several years, with the images becoming more intimate over time. Another example of the blurring between a subject and a friend occurs in Nina Berman’s book An Autobiography of Miss Wish (Berman and Stevens, 2017) in which she initially meets a stranger, a drug addict and a prostitute on the street and over many years develops a friendship that includes housing her for a time and being her sponsor. The final book is a collaboration between Berman and Miss Wish (Kimberly Stevens) and includes both photographs, copies of her medical documentation and drawings done by Stevens.

The skills needed for all portraits of aware subjects include (in no particular order):

  • The ability to make a connection and read the person and therefore show their feelings
  • Real engagement to build trust – possibly very rapidly in a one-off shoot
  • The need to keep separate your emotion and the subjects (they may be the same – or very different) – and the photo will depend on how you interpret them
  • Patience
  • The ability to think about the whole image, not just the person. Both the content and the framing are important.
  • The need to choose between either being an observer (neutral) or a participant (a director) – both can work well but probably not in the same image
  • Consider lighting – inside or outside, natural or flash, soft or hard – what will show what you need?
  • Get permission which may be explicit (in writing) or implicit (the person sees you pointing the camera at them and agrees by not turning away)

A useful reference book which discusses these points is on the Portrait and the Moment by Mary Ellen Mark (Mark, 2015).


Agou, C. (2011). In the face of silence. Stockport: Dewi Lewis.

Berman, N. and Stevens, K. (2017). An Autobiography of Miss Wish. Heidelberg: Kehrer.

Davey, S. (2015). Looking for Alice. Great Britain: Trolley Ltd.

Davey, S. (2019). Martha. Hertfordshire: Trolleybooks.

Davey, S. and Smith, B. (2017). Siân Davey. [online] A Small Voice. Available at: https://bensmithphoto.com/asmallvoice/sian-davey [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

Germain, J. and Snelling, C. (2014). For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness: portrait of an elderly gentleman. London: Mack.

Graham, P. (2019). Mother. S.L.: Mack.

Mark, M.E. (2015). on the portrait and the moment. New York Aperture.

Quail, L. (2018). Big Brother. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.




Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows is a British photographer, a contemporary and friend of Martin Parr, who taught and worked in collaboration with him. He describes himself on his website as ‘I am a Documentarist, I have spent a lifetime recording British society, challenging the status quo by working in a collaborative way to capture extraordinary aspects of ordinary life, principally through photography but also with audio recordings and short movies’ (Meadows, 2019) and says his story is about the England he comes from. An archive of all his work to March 2018 is held in the Boddleian Library in Oxford and has been used to study how UK photographers can make their work and studies publicly available.

The June Street series was made in collaboration with Martin Parr in 1973, as series of pictures of the residents of houses in June Street, Salford, that were awaiting demolition. They took photographs of families in their sitting rooms, all looking at him, seated in similar positions. The project was taken up by the BBC and the verbal stories and comments of the people were added. A short Vimeo talk, Daniel Meadows – June Street by Meadows explains how he went back to see some of the residents of June Street in 1996 and how the photographs brought back memories of the past. He also talks about the comments of some bloggers on an exhibition in 2011 talking about how his photographs of June Street brought back personal memories of their own childhoods and says ‘ ..that something so rooted in a specific past can speak so powerfully in an ever-changing present and with such a range of meaning is, I think, magical’ (Meadows, 2014).

In the introduction to his recent book, Now and Then, England 1970-2015 Meadows says ‘My rule of thumb when doing documentary work is to try and treat people as individuals, not types’ (Meadows 2019). This is completely opposite to the rule of typology that Sander used and leads to a very different kind of image. He quotes Karl Ove Knausgaard who says ‘; Should our culture not …. establish difference, which is the stuff of all worth in which value resides and from which it is released’ (Knausgaard, 2018). The book starts from his very early work as a student when he set up a free photo-studio in a disused room in Graeme Street. Even these early images show the individual nature of the people he took, the cheekiness of the children and the serious adults. He moved on to travelling with a bus, still taking free pictures of anyone who wanted their picture taken, single people, pairs and groups – building up an early version of a portrait of England. He made contact with some of the people photographed in both these projects many years later and took their stories and re-photographed them – hence Now and Then. It makes fascinating reading. Among other things, in 1975 he was photographer-in -residence for the Borough of Pendle, where he took images of what was then the industrial heartland of England, the people, the machines and the scenery. All in black and white – colour was generally too expensive then. The photographs in Now and Then are accompanied by the stories of the people, not (definitely not) politically correct – but extremely funny. He has always made audio recordings to go with the images – to extend the story.


Knausgaard, K.O. (2018). My Struggle. London: Harvill Secker, p.p.626.

Meadows, D. (2014). Photobus ~ Daniel Meadows. [online] Photobus.co.uk. Available at: http://www.photobus.co.uk/daniel-meadows [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Meadows, D. (2019a). June Street, Salford by Daniel Meadows. My photography stories #4. [online] Vimeo. Available at: https://vimeo.com/110983025 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Meadows, D. (2019b). Now and Then: England 1970-2015. Oxford: Bodleian Library.