Mr. Meadows’ head shakes uncontrollably from side to side as he talks; he’s not well and even I know that a storm is waiting for him and his young son, somewhere on the horizon, yet there is a smile on his face as I’m introduced to him. Mr Meadows is short and stocky and avoids eye contact as much as he can – but this isn’t his real name – it’s not fair to use it here.
I ask him if I can photograph him before he moves out of Barry Jackson Tower. He’s a little hesitant at first but then says yes. I’ve put him on the spot, I know that I have but we swap phone numbers, nonetheless, and we agree that I’ll pop around to his flat at 11am in the morning.
I’m excited as there are only 9 residents left and adding Mr. Meadows to my work will be a great addition. Addition - I think to myself - I linger, ashamedly, on what I’ve just thought and then move on.
The next day I knock at his door. There’s no answer. I knock again and once more I’m met by silence. I take out my phone and ring his number. He’s at the doctors he says - can we reschedule?
On Sunday morning I knock on his door again but there’s no answer. Once again I ring his phone but this time it goes to voice mail.
I’ll try again I think to myself...I’ll try again.
I find myself sitting down looking on at Mr. Meadows as he’s packing up the contents of the last ten years of his life into boxes for his move on Wednesday. Yet, and I don’t know why, as I don’t know him and never will; but it just seems so sad and I fall silent. As I watch him my eyes begin to burn a little, then become damp and I’m forced to turn away from him to look out at the world outside for awhile and at the cars that glide silently along the horizon under a pale blue sky that is gliding too into Spring.
But this was just a dream that I awoke to find still lingering in my mind on a Monday morning that I didn't want to start. Because in the end I never photographed Mr. Meadows before he moved out of Barry Jackson Tower. I would never see him again - outside of this dream. But what do dreams mean and what do they tell us?
I rang him later that day on Monday but he told me that he didn’t want me to photograph him – he didn’t have the time – and that was it. But I knew that he never really wanted to be photographed by me I was simply just exerting unnecessary pressure on a man that life had already exerted untold pressures on.
The week after his move out I was allowed into his flat whilst it was still awaiting clearance by the council.
In many ways, though, Mr. Meadows and his son were still there in his flat. The kitchen cupboards still had food in, medication, toys, phones, papers and mainly the dirt and the detritus of a life that was shedding the skin of ten years past littered every room. It was sad to see, to smell and experience - mainly because I knew that what was left behind summed up the lives which were lived here and that perhaps the storm I had perceived to be on the horizon had already found Mr. Meadows and son.
In one room his son had written on the wallpaper about his love for cake and why cake was good for him and why daddy should give him cake. He made a powerful argument.
In another room, which may have been a bedroom, a thin pale orange curtain, faded by the years, gave halt to the world whilst also acting like a poor man’s stained glass window that painted the room in an alien light that fell on about twenty used cotton buds, strewn on the torn green carpet, with a hat, odd socks and dirt. Dirt stained the floor and the walls and I knew that it stained the people who once lived here in this flat too.
These words aren't intended as an indictment of everyone who once lived in Barry Jackson Tower, of course they aren't. But as I looked on at a toy, left behind by Mr Meadows' son and how it was entwined in hair and broken, abandoned and powerless I begin to surmise as to why he didn’t want me to photograph him in his flat - because he knew what the camera would have seen - what strangers would have seen; and perhaps that was too much for him to share with the world.