Birmingham Central Library has been awarded £11,750 by The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, to purchase prints by two of the leading British documentary photographers of the 1970s, who were inspired by amateur Victorian photographer Sir Benjamin Stone.
The acquisition includes a total of twenty-four photographs by Daniel Meadows and Homer Sykes, who documented the lives, customs and festivals of British people some eighty years after Stone toured the country recording similar subjects.
Images from Sykes’s book Once a Year – Some Traditional British Customs and prints from Meadows’s Free Photographic Omnibus project will form the basis of a new collection demonstrating Stone’s influence on subsequent generations of British photographers. The Library already holds other signifcant work from this period including a portfolio of images by Tony Ray-Jones (printed after his death by John Benton-Harris), and The Paul Hill / Photographer's Place Archive.
Meadows, Sykes and Ray-Jones were featured in the legacy section of the Library’s exhibition Knight of the Camera: the Photographs of Sir Benjamin Stone MP in Centenary Square in 2008. The purchase was supported by Anthony Collins Solicitors, major sponsors for last year’s exhibition.
The Library has an immense archive of over 22,000 photographs colleted and taken by Stone which were gifted to Birmingham Free Libraries after his death in 1914. It now forms the cornerstone of the Library’s collection which was awarded Designated status in 2006 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “This is an immensely rich and diverse collection of works from two very important photographers, who have dedicated their careers to capturing the social zeitgeist in Britain. The Art Fund’s core purpose is to make great works of art available for everyone to enjoy, as this work now will be for generations to come.”
The prints will be on view alongside other material at the forthcoming RPS Historical Grroup event at the Library on 14th March. Collections like this and Birmingham's extensive archives will be opened up further to the public as part of the Library of Birmingham, set to open in Centenary Square in 2013. This will include a gallery space as well as facilities to improve the acess to and standards of care and conservation of the collections.
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