THE PHOTO BLOOM No.1
A conversation between Jack Lowe and Daniel Meadows, hosted by Tom Broadbent
Recorded 15th March 2021
“Happenstance and serendipity, for me that’s been the richest thing about being alive on this planet.”
— Daniel Meadows
Hosted by fellow photographer Tom Broadbent, this is yet another one of those wonderful personal and career milestones — talking with Daniel Meadows about our mutual love for community projects and serendipitous connections.
Also a blog post:
WHEN AMBULANCE MEETS OMNIBUS
Tom Broadbent is a photographer and editor. He published his first photobook At Home With The Furries in 2018, a ten year exploration of the British furry fandom.
Tom builds relationships and collaborates with close-knit, hidden communities to develop photographic projects that have authenticity and integrity. Tom’s latest work is the Mermaid Project and you can help support the development of it on his Patreon page. There, you’ll also find features on crowdfunding and self-publishing books as well as interviews with some great photographers such as Alys Tomlinson, Lottie Davies and George Georgiou.
Tom Broadbent is also the founder of The Photobook Club, a collective of wonderfully supportive photographers. As Tom puts it “The Photobook Club has a collective spirit of giving, which is unlike anything I have experienced in 20 years of professional photography.”
In 1973, Daniel Meadows bought a double decker bus, transformed it into a mobile darkroom and living quarters and drove it around England stopping at various towns and making photographic portraits of the local community, overnight he would develop the photographs on the bus and the following day Daniel would hand out prints of the images to those who had been photographed and interview them as well. As well as putting on exhibitions in the bus itself.
This become known as the Free Photographic Omnibus. This community-based approach is how Daniel has worked for his entire career and in 2018 the Bodleian Library in Oxford acquired Daniel’s complete archive, a book was published in 2019 to accompany an exhibition called Now and Then.
You can support Daniel Meadows as he writes about his many stories in photography and capturing people’s lives from steeplejacks to farmers on his Patreon page, A Living Archive.
The Photo Bloom
Welcome to the Photo Bloom. This is an informal chat with two photographers, connected by friendship, love of photography (of course) but also a deep and profound respect of the people and communities they work with. It’s looking beyond the gloss of a project and getting in the nitty gritty of how we make work, why we make work, what drives us to continue on our respective journeys and how by sharing our experiences it can help us to overcome the difficulties that inevitably a large project can throw up. The Photo Bloom is a visual podcast and I hope you enjoy it.
The first is with Jack Lowe and Daniel Meadows, both photographers I’ve got to know more deeply through The Photobook Club. This first talk is a collaboration between us and I have to give a special mention to Jack Lowe who has helped me bring it together, editing the video and as always drawing on his many years of engaging with his audience to make it as accessible as possible.
They are my supporters and I am their supporter too. Daniel Meadows through his Patreon page and Jack Lowe through The LSP Society…
New methods of funding, why publicity doesn’t necessarily mean more patrons.
About the people, for the people, funded by the people.
Small steps. Five years of crowdfunding, Jack is nearly there. There are no shortcuts.
Daniel’s old school crowdfunding. Public callboxes. Find a friend with a phone. Raising money in 1972. Working in Moss Side.
“I hate the way in which big media treats everyone as types and trying to find the individual within the ‘type’ is what I’ve always tried to do.”
“You need a lot of energy to keep all these balls in the air, you’re trying to take pictures, you’re trying to make audio recordings, trying to process the film, trying to give prints back, listening to recordings. Making transcripts…and then the bus breaks down…”
Daniel shows us the bus. Letraset sign. Back of a screwdriver on stepladders. Paddy Summerfield photograph of Daniel Meadows.
Inside the bus.
The cabinet in the middle: “You had to drive the bus around even in hot weather to dry the films.”
Tom: “That tea tastes a bit strong today!”
Jack shows us Neena.
Sign-writing and how to afford things: “Prints become currency”
Neena’s former working life.
Exhibitions in the ambulance. Eyemouth lifeboat and Neena mug.
“This is one of my favourite scenes in Neena, the exact scene when you’re set up and ready to make a (glass) plate.”
“Method and cleanliness”
“Keep ‘er lit”
“Real sense of engagement”
A year ago today.
Jack: “If I’d known at the start, I’d still be here six years later it may have appeared to be a task that was too big to do.”
Daniel: “Happenstance and serendipity for me have been the richest thing about being alive on this planet. The chance that something wonderful or odd or curious might happen, something life enhancing is just round the corner.”
Moments of kindness, Daniel shares two moving audio diaries from 1972.
“I was absolutely speechless, very very touched, very moved and I felt very close to tears I must say.”
Jack recalls three incredible moments of kindness from his supporters, lifeboat crews, friends and the public.
“It just moves you to tears, you know there are people waiting there to be so generous to you and they don’t think anything of it, it’s just part of their make-up, it’s just so extraordinary.”
Daniel Meadows takes up Patreon, inspired by Jack Lowe’s own experience of engaging with supporters.
“There’s a whole career after the bus journey, lots of projects all of which were informed by that original journey in that I’ve tried to work in this collaborative way with people”
Multimedia, short videos, audio, photography.
Daniel: “I can excite people”
The Photobook Club gets a mention
Collaboration: Jack Lowe working with the RNLI, the stations, the lifeboat crews, collaboration is absolutely key.
“I love the collaborative side of it.”
“I was worried if the people would accept me, how would it go and then I realised the project was nurturing a side of me that I didn’t even realise I had, that I could adapt and engage with people from 150 coastal towns. I feel proud of that aspect alone, I’ve been accepted by all these people. We’ve made the work together.”
Jack shows us a selection of photographs from the Lifeboat Station Project:
Castletownbere, Cromer, Dartmouth, Dover, Hastings, Howth, Ilfracombe, Kinghorn, Llandudno, Sennen Cove, Stranraer and Yarmouth.
From Yarmouth, Isle of Wight “I had lined them up on a cold January day, you can feel the collaboration going on there. Their pagers all sounded and because they were there kitted up, they saved seven minutes on their normal launch time. They took the lifeboat out and saved the lives of two teenage boys whose dinghy had capsized in the Solent. An hour later they returned with the two boys safely off to hospital. I thought it would be cancelled. But they said, right where do you want us? Same place?”
Daniel shows us a selection of photographs from The Free Photographic Omnibus and one of his multimedia films.
From Middlesbrough, Hume, West Bromwich, Stratford upon Avon, Chippenham, Southampton amongst others. Images of Lynn and Stella, Florence and John Payne.
Robert and James Broxton from County Durham, September 1974.
Daniel’s Vimeo feed. The power of Daniel’s audio recordings.
“What I love most is building a place where people can listen to the stuff and enjoy the pictures.”
Building the exhibition and multimedia sound booth at the Bodleian Exhibition, Then and Now:
“It’s taken me all my life to realise that this sound booth is the best way of looking at this material. The other thing is you have to tell people how long the video is. No one is going to stand there and watch a 40 minute video. But they will watch ten 4 minute videos. They get drawn into one then they want to watch another, they’re leaning around and seeing what the other person’s looking at, they’re talking to complete strangers. “Is yours any good?” You have this lovely thing where people are meeting each other around your work.”
Jack Lowe talks about the final exhibition of the Lifeboat Station Project:
“There’s barely a day that goes by where I don’t think about the exhibition and what that will feel like.”
“Maybe I’m normal and you’re all bonkers…”
Thursday 27th August 2020
Introduced by fellow photographer Craig Easton, I presented The Lifeboat Station Project as part of the SixBySix Social, giving a taste of what it takes to create such a large scale ongoing project.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT SIXBYSIX
SixBySix hold fortnightly online presentations, their mission being to start conversations, spark debate and grow a network of people interested in photography.
You can attend their live events in two ways: via Zoom or streamed on the SixBySix Facebook page.
If you’d like to join their future events via Zoom, it’s recommended that you signup to the mailing list or send a Direct Message on their Facebook page to receive all the details you need.