The magazine of the photo-essay
Aug 2016 back issue
Living Like This
by Daniel Meadows
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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In 1973, when I was twenty-one years old, I set-off on a journey around England in a double-decker bus.  I wanted to make a difference.  I'd bought the bus for £360 and converted it into my home, my gallery and my darkroom.  I called it the Free Photographic Omnibus.  I’d done Latin at school and I knew that 'omnibus' meant 'for all the people'. Over fourteen months, I covered 10,000 miles and visited twenty-two different towns and cities, photographing 958 people in free portrait sessions.  Parked up in shopping centres and on high streets I developed and printed the pictures overnight and when, next day, people returned to see how their photographs had turned out, I gave them to them for nothing. JRR 404 had spent most of her working life in Nottingham and, riding in her, I felt a bit like Robin Hood, redistributing to the people in the form of photographs, the money I'd wheedled out of my sponsors. The documentary tradition I belong to holds that each of us is unique, that we cannot be studied as representative types and that we’re all special.  Influenced by sixties
counter-culture, I was mistrustful of big media with its top-down ways.  I wanted an approach that was alternative.  So, while shooting their portraits, I asked people to suggest other subjects for my camera, stories from their neighbourhoods.  And these I photographed too, which is why the edit presented here is a mix of two distinct photographic styles: medium format portraits and 35mm reportage. In the 1990s I revisited this project, photographing some of the same people again.  But that's another story...   Living Like This, Around Britain in the Seventies, written and photographed by Daniel Meadows, the story of the Free Photographic Omnibus (172 pictures, 128 pages), was published in October 1975 by Arrow books and launched with an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.
Filey.  Boy, Butlin's holiday camp.
Goole Docks.  A docker: 'It's not much of a life this, you know.  Up at 5 a.m. to start work at six.  Work right through the day till six p.m.  Get drunk, home to bed and start all over again.  You only get time to watch television  once a week — last time I turned it on I noticed the knob was rusty.'
Conisborough.  David Stephenson lives with his father and step-mother on a council estate at Conanby.  When he was fourteen David was playing with a lemon-squeezer in a bus queue; some of the contents of the squeezer sprayed over an eighteen-year-old sixth former who beat David up.  He suffered a fractured skull and a brain haemorrhage and was confined to hospital for three months.  David now works for a coach-builder in Rotherham and manages quite well in spite of a very pronounced limp.
Telford New Town, opening of a new hypermarket.  Telford resident: 'The original sign outside Wellington on the Newport Road said: TELFORD FOR PEOPLE ON THE MOVE.  Well they altered it because a lot of people coming into the houses were stopping here for a few months and then moving on.  It now says, THIS IS TELFORD, YOUR OPPORTUNITY.'
Black-Country, West Midlands.  Man with Babycham advertisement.
Portsmouth.  “My name is John Payne and this pigeon is a chequer so I calls it ‘Chequer’.  I've got a loft with about sixty in it.  Some of them I keeps for show pigeons and the others I race against me mates what got show pigeons.  I goes out catchin' them.  Some I catch I brings home and if they got rings on I breeds 'em.  I just keeps the best ones and lets the others go.  I puts corn behind the corner and they flies behind the corner to eat the corn, I dive round the corner and I've got it in me hand.  Brilliant isn't it?”
Southampton.  Lyn and Stella Brasher.
Oxford, The Museum of Modern Art.  Viewing the exhibition, Bob Law 10 Black Paintings.
Great Washbourne. Pylon painters.  Every twelve years the electricity pylons have a fresh coat of paint.
Weymouth. Boy with kite.
Weymouth. Sunday evening preacher.
Hartlepool.  According to folk-lore the people of Hartlepool once hanged a monkey.  It was during the Napoleonic wars when everyone was on the lookout for French spies.  One morning a monkey, probably a ship's mascot that had been washed overboard, was found on the beach, gibbering in what the locals understood to be French.  The constabulary arrested it and had it tried in court for espionage.  Found guilty it was hanged on the public gibbet.  Today people from Hartlepool are known derogatorily as 'monkey hangers'.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  The afternoon of gas-conversion Sunday.
Barrow-in-Furness, strike meeting of shipyard workers.
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