Moss Side, Manchester, spring of 1972. On a sunny day, a group of children gather round an old barber’s shop, set into a row of single-storey Victorian buildings. They jostle for space as they peer at photographs on display in the window. The eldest among them holds up a toddler on their hip—perhaps a sibling, relation, or friend—to better see the photographs. To their left, outside the shop next door, stands a rack of second-hand clothes for sale. To the right is Jimmy Thomson’s Tattoo Parlour. Three teenage girls stand outside the tattoo shop, watching the flurry of activity. 
Moss Side covers just 1.84 square kilometres of Manchester, pushing up against Hulme to the north and Whalley Range to the south. . In the 1950s, this neighbourhood became home to a small but growing Caribbean population, early arrivals of what is now known as the Windrush Generation. In the 1950s and 60s, many Caribbean people chose to move to Manchester where they knew others, family or friends, or if they had been stationed in nearby Lancashire during the war. Settling in and around Moss Side, a Caribbean community soon laid down roots in the neighbourhood. . In the 1950s, Caribbean people made up the second-largest ethnic group in Manchester after white British people and by 1981 there were over 6,000 people from the Caribbean living in the city. These people came predominantly from Jamaica, but there were other from countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and what was then known as the West Indies Associated States. .
Moss Side has long been stigmatised as an ‘inner-city problem area.’ . In 1981, protests against racist and aggressive policing tactics in Moss Side turned into violent clashes lasting two nights, further consolidating the view of the neighbourhood as a site of violence and crime. This followed similar events in Brixton, Toxteth and Handsworth, caused by high unemployment, poor housing provision, a lack of investment, and racial tensions. . However, photographs of Moss Side held in the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections show a very different story. Taken almost a decade before the disturbances of 1981, but twenty years after the first arrivals from the Caribbean, they are a window into the daily life of this deprived, but neighbourly area.
The shop described above, around which the children gathered to peek at photographs in the window, was the Free Photographic Shop, which had been set up by a photography student at Manchester Polytechnic called Daniel Meadows. Hailing from rural Gloucestershire, Meadows came to Manchester in 1970 and lived in Moss Side. In January 1972 he rented a barbershop at 79b Greame Street, converting it into a photographic studio in which local people could have their picture taken free of charge. Once developed, Meadows’ subjects received a copy of their photograph to keep. . The studio was open for two months during which time Meadows photographed over 200 people, despite the shop being open only one day per week. .
The Free Photographic Shop at 79b Greame Street, MS. Meadows 46