Saturday, 7 May 2016


Fashion photographer Rokas Darulis crunches his 6ft 5inch, 93KG frame into a solid crouch, crams the Canon MKIII firmly to his eye under his black Criminal Damage snapback cap, depresses the shutter and releases a rapid rattle of frames through a 50mmm lens. “Perfect, really good, just keep moving like that” is the quiet but firm advice he delivers to 25 year old Belgium born model, Yannick Abrath, as he fluidly moves in front of Darulis’s lens, moves  Abrath has honed over a six-year career working in the industry. Darulis, who wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of a fashion magazine himself, shoots fast: no gimmicks no assistant, no fuss. He has to shoot fast, this street that runs parallel to London’s Waterloo Bridge is busy; a mixed-race family with orange balloons from the Giraffe restaurant chain tied to a pushchair bobble on past. Duck Tour amphibious trucks grumble menacingly close to Darulis’s Tamrac bag plopped by the side of the pavement and a blonde-haired dwarf in a green dress wobbles quickly towards the Hayward Gallery.

I graduated from the University of Derby in 1995 with a first class honours degree in photography and moved swiftly to London; two years on the dole followed, sponging off my parents and scratching around for extra images to bolster my portfolio. Fourteen years later, Lithuanian born Darulis, graduated from Middlesex University with a first-class honours degree in photography; in his first year out of university working as a professional, commissions for magazines Pravda (in Lithuania), Monika and Tank were completed. He shot for commercial client Svyturys Beer and seven days a week for the British online fashion and beauty store ASOS. He was asked to shoot tests for Elite model management agency, a request that could have become a formulaic, factory produced series of images. They are not. Darulis’s Portraits of Girls in my Studio (the studio being a small corner of his rented apartment) are exquisite, each shot crafted with the aspirational professionalism of Irving Penn, the skill of Richard Avedon, the eye of Peter Lindbergh and the mood of Paolo Roversi. Elite were impressed enough to start paying him £30 per model, then £70 per model, then £175 per model.

It’s the Portraits of Girls in my Studio and his Seaside Stories images that convinced me, in 2012, to curate and commission his first UK solo show at White Cloth Gallery. The exhibition remains one of the most fondly remembered and talked about by those who caressed their eyes across it. 6ft prints of chisel-chinned men crying, towered down on dark, moody prints of sultry men sucking back cigarette smoke. Square formatted chaps with sculpted moustaches bristled alongside semi-naked young women folded into fur coats or stretched out across crisp cotton bed sheets wearing sheer white panties.

If you can take such spontaneously delicious shots at the seaside of your friends there has to be potential. It helps if your friends are spontaneously delicious and your girlfriend is the Lithuanian born model, Julija Steponaviciute aka Step. Represented by Storm model management (their website reliably informs) Step has a height of 5’ 10.5” (179.07cm), has green eyes, light brown hair, 32” bust, 34.5” (87.63) hips, 24” (60.96cm) waist, dress size UK 8 and wears a UK 6 shoe. She has modelled for Italian GLAMOUR, Elle France, Fashion Gone Rogue magazine and Damernas Vald Sweden among others. Darulis and Step have been together over four years and she has been successful enough in those years, to buy outright, a 98 square metre apartment in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnuis.

©Rokas Darulis

Darulis was born in the small town of Siauliai, the cyclops eye of Lithuania. He was four years old when his country officially gained independence from the Communist Soviet Union. This afforded him the opportunity to put down his wooden toys and pick up exotic imported fruits rich in colour and flavour, that the iron curtain had denied him. “Exotic fruits such as…?” I ask him. “The banana!” he exclaims triumphantly pointing into the air. In search of more exotic fruit, or perhaps, more likely, in search of better paid work across the free world, his diplomat parents took him to Dublin and Chicago before he was sent back to live on his grandparents' farm. On his arrival, his grandfather gave him an old Soviet KIEV 35mmm camera to play around with and Darulis was on his way. When recently giving a talk about his career to date, at the Lithuanian equivalent of London’s Excel centre, 800 people turned up to hear him. That probably makes him one of Lithuania’s most famous sons alongside Zydrunas Savickas (below), who has won the country’s Strongest Man competition a record 12 times.

Balanced precariously close to the edge on the third floor balcony at the National Theatre, Darulis completes another of the required ten shots for the Korean edition of Arena Homme+ magazine and retires to take a breather and a gulp of his aloe vera mango juice. Even sat down in the boot of the silver/grey Volkswagen Transporter van he dominates: a Godzilla in the East Asian team. As the Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Dior and Pringle designer clothes chime in the breeze dangling from coat hangers around Darulis head, he flips the lid on his Mac laptop, rams a 16GB Extreme III CompactFlash card into the card reader and reviews the morning's work. The previews are beautiful and crisp, honest and enjoyable, black & white. Darulis doesn’t trust the in-camera colours. Satisfied, he springs up onto his Nike Air Max clad feet, tucks his key chain into his long black skinny jeans, neatens his white T-shirt and bounds towards the next shoot scenario.

©Rokas Darulis

A few days later, I catch up with him on the trim terrace of an Italian eatery in north London. In April 2014, he packed up his bags and left expensive London to return to live in Lithuania. Arriving back in Lithuania, he had a call inviting him to join the east London based, Saint Luke Artist Management Agency (three years after he first approached them about representation). With no need to pack his bags, he just turned back around and retraced his journey. The Saint Luke Agency, represents photographers Nik Hartley, Dima Hohlov, Alexandra Leese and Rahel Weiss; they could have their pick of more established photographers, but picked Darulis.

Since he's been on the books at Saint Luke, Darulis has been busy. Very busy. He has three to four meetings a day when he’s not shooting and has shot on assignment in Shanghai and Tokyo. His diary may be full but that isn’t necessarily reflected in his bank account. The only person that seemed to be on a salary from the Korean Arena Homme+ shoot was the van driver Dave. Darulis explains that most young fashion photographs aren’t paid for editorial assignments as most magazines are culpable of not offering a fee, Dazed & Confused and Wanderlust among them. He knows he has come far since graduating from Middlesex University but appreciates he has a long way to go. He thinks it could take another 20-30 years to achieve what photographic legends Mario Testino, Juergen Teller and Steven Meisel have achieved and then one of them would have to stop working, or die, before an opportunity to shoot for the world’s most sought-after clients would be ‘up for grabs’.

A month into a Masters Degree Darulis quit, keen to get to work,. He says that, in retrospect, would have quit a month into his undergraduate degree too, to get to work assisting, which he thinks is “the best education”. There is no plan B for this alpha male (except perhaps, playing poker) with his swimmers frame, basketball player's height, FBI Agent cool and photographic talent but with “patience, luck, working hard and being involved in everything you can” Darulis believes he will succeed, and I for one, believe him.

A version of this feature first appeared in issue 118 of Professional Photo magazine UK

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Dench Diary : February - April 2015

“How many boring books that don’t sell are you going to do with the same boring pictures. Regurgitated rubbish!” Anonymous

It’s a fair question and one I’m hoping was not posted on my blog by;

My Publisher
My Mother

The answer is probably three, for now. Bluecoat Press, who published my second book, A & E: Alcohol & England, have expressed an interest in publishing a third, The British Abroad (TBA). Bluecoat funded A & E entirely for around £9,000. They publish up to four books a year; that’s a sizeable outlay for an independent publisher. For TBA, we’ve agreed to try and raise two-thirds of the sum required through crowdfunding and choose the Kickstarter platform. With the demise of independent bookshops, if you can’t get a significant quantity of your stock in to Waterstones or Foyles, options are limited. Crowdfunding provides a valuable choice. 


It’s my second crowdfunding experience in three years and I’m confident of reaching the £6,000 target. I start to prepare and write a blog post; set up a British Abroad Facebook page; find snapshots from my own teenage holidays to cheap party resorts to post on social networks and secure an online feature about the book with BuzzFeed.

27th I have a falling out with cardboard cutout Dench over plans for our summer holiday. He’s keen on Kos, I’m more eager for Egypt.


10th I hurry past the iconic Art Deco facade of BBC Broadcasting House (with a facing of Portland Stone), across the pristine new piazza and through the blindingly bright glass covered entrance, collect my pass and press the elevator up button. Legendary BBC journalist and broadcaster, Dan Damon, strides authoritatively in to the small studio in which I’m waiting and takes the seat opposite. I am here to discuss TBA for an interview to be aired on World Update on the BBC World Service that Damon has presented for over a decade. The interview unfolds. “All fuelled by alcohol. That was part of your motivation wasn’t it?” asks Damon. Part of! It was pretty much all of my motivation but this is the BBC, and the BBC has reach! I proceed with caution and do what any self respecting booze-hound would do; I blame the parents. “The first time I ever went abroad was to the party town of Magaluf, Majorca, as a 14 year old. I was allowed a Bacardi & Coke and it was always a buy one get two free offer. I remember sitting at a table with my mum, dad and sister heaving.” Leaving the BBC I read on Twitter that BBC television presenter Jeremy Clarkson has allegedly punched a producer and consider asking Clarkson if he would write the intro to TBA book?


PETER: Hi Folks!

MISGINA: Good to see you, Peter! Nice to have you here! So, what’s today’s challenge!

PETER: Today you are going to make me laugh. (pause) And you are going to make me laugh by capturing the spirit of the typical Norwegian.

MISGINA: Sounds interesting! First of all: Can you tell me; what IS a fun picture?

I turn away from Norwegian television host Misigna, look up from the script and over at the participants filming for episode three of Mobilfotografene. In each programme a task or a challenge is presented by a professional photographer (that’s me). The photographer (me) gives directions and tips on how to best solve the task. Three of the photographers (not me) are sent out alone to complete the task, and when back, the photographer (me) will review the pictures (which will be printed out), and select a winner. The winner of the whole competition will have their pictures shown outdoors on RĂ„dhusplassen (in front of the Town Hall). It’s a bit like Masterchef for aspiring photographers; I’m feeling more Gregg Wallace than John Torode, glance back at the script, breath in and continue….

PETER: A fun picture is an unexpected picture. A picture that makes the viewer think; that shows them something that they think they know about, but in a unique and engaging way.”

The three students are dispatched to Holmenkollen Ski Festival to capture the spirit of the typical Norwegian on their mobile phone. The results are fantastically vibrant, pin sharp colour photographs that make me smile. The results are printed out and presented on the wall of the studio; a silence descends. 

PETER: “And the winner is……” and I slowly start to count up to ten in my head.


17th After 18 days of palm slapping high fives and the odd head in hands low, the Kickstarter campaign target of £6,000 has been reached and breached: The British Abroad hardback photo book will be published July 2015.

21st Hungry Eye magazine have kindly let me squat in a corner of their stand at The Photography Show hosted at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. It’s a chance to experience an exciting overview of the ever-changing photographic industry, plus the chance to discover new ideas, learn the latest techniques, hear from the experts and be amazed by the latest kit and deals available from a diverse range of exhibitors. It’s also a chance for me to flog some books and sign some posters. Elinor from Wales pops by for a touch of Dench, as does Rosie. Gareth Tibbles deviates in for a chat; Matt Obrey and his infectiously happy partner swerve in for some banter and Tom Stoddart photo-bombs along to buy a book.

Olympus cameras backed TBA book with a sizeable pledge and I have a question for the man who authorised it. I find the man, predictably, at the Olympus stand where a woman is being photographed while liberally doused with paint. I ask the man the question. “Why?”. “Timing” replies the man who makes big decisions with few words. I think that clears it up and we discuss the possibility of a future collaboration.



8th Cardboard cutout Dench has announced aspirations to be a photojournalist; I’m both flattered and disappointed.

20th It’s the fourth anniversary of the mortar attack in Libya that took the life of Tim Hetherington. Tonight, the Frontline Club in London is hosting an evening celebrating his life. Listening to the programme of short presentations by friends, family and colleagues reflecting on Tim’s legacy, it occurs he continues to be more prolific than I am.

23rd The hooligan-working-class far right have stolen the English flag. On Saint Patrick’s Day, the river Liffey flows green through the heart of Dublin. On Saint Andrews Day, the Saltire flaps vigorously along the high roads and low roads of Scotland. The breeze of Red Dragon flags being unfurled across Wales on Saint David’s Day, can be felt in faces as far away as London. On the feast day of Saint George, the national day for England, the red cross of Saint George is barely visible. Despite over 80% of people in England feeling pride in their country, almost a third associate the cross of Saint George with football hooligans and lager louts; a quarter are put off flying the flag because of links to far right extremists like the English Defence League. Two thirds don’t even know the date of Saint George’s Day.


I of course know the date. It’s the day on which Rupert Brooke died. The “handsomest young man in England” perished at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915 after developing sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He was sailing with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on his way to the landing at Gallipoli. Today is the birthday of great English landscape painter, J.M.W Turner; the birthday of the greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare’s and regular readers will know, it’s my birthday. It’s time for the English to rise up and reclaim the flag, to relinquish the shackles of shame and regain their red cross to bear. I jump out of bed determined to strike out across London and photograph evidence of a red cross renaissance to present to the government and lobby for a public holiday; then I feel a bit dizzy so get back into bed for another hours detoxing doze.

Disembarking the overground at Stratford, east London, I walk south towards West Ham then bank west through Bow, Mile End, Whitechapel and Brick Lane where I stop to refuel with a lamb Biryani before continuing on to Battersea via Sloane Square and a quick toilet stop at The Saatchi Gallery. During the journey I encounter no spontaneous Saint George’s Day celebrations.

24th I take cardboard cutout Dench to a charity fundraiser at The Alex, Crouch End, in an effort to reconcile our differences.

25th Aha! I knew it.Today there is a celebration in recognition of Saint George. Arriving at the Feast of Saint George in Trafalgar Square (the square that commemorates a very English naval victory), I replay the video message delivered by the dazzlingly bonkers Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, inviting everyone to;

“A celebration of all the great things about England” including;

“Traditional English dishes of all kinds”; I opt for the Indian inspired chicken of Mr Singh

“Traditional English sporting activities”; I hoop a duck and dislodge a coconut with my shy.

“Traditional English music”; I tap my thigh to the sounds of the Crystal Palace Brass Band and The Beatles sound-a-likes performing hits from hit musical, Let It Be.

Traditional English Tea; I attend a talk about tea history in the Tea Tent with Jane Pettigrew, as she unfolds the story from tea's first arrival into the London docks in the 1650s to today's Bubble Tea Shops in Soho and tea dances in Spitalfields Market.

Working the throng, I talk to Vitoria from Russia and Juan Ignacio from Spain. Tyler from the USA and Marta from Italy. I hang out with Alina from Switzerland who is nibbling an Eton Mess purchased from the Meringue Girls and Constanza from Chile, munching a scotch egg from The Pie Cart. I photograph Miyu from Japan and hand a flag of Saint George to Thiago from Argentina and encourage him to wave it. Thiago hands back the flag and exits Trafalgar Square.


26th It’s the day of the London Marathon (LM). The preparation has been gruelling: waking up early; cooking extra meals; washing sweat saturated running kit and extra childcare duties. It’s been worth it and allowed my wife Michelle to concentrate on her training schedule and raising over £5,900 for the Stroke Association.

Despite living in London for nearly 20 years, the only time I’ve  witnessed the LM must have been in 1986 after a four hour train journey with my parents and sister Jennifer from our home town of Weymouth. You couldn’t walk between the train carriages back then, confined to looking out of the window, rereading comics, sucking on barley sugar sticks and asking; “how many more stops”. The reason we were going to this particular LM was that my maths teacher, Mr ‘Speedy”’ Clark, was participating, a reason I could never calculate as no one was particularly fond of Mr 'Speedy' Clark. We found a space along the route and watched the Mars sponsored Marathon pass, reaching out a hand towards Jimmy Savile and cheering along Bernie Clifton ‘riding’ Oswald the Ostrich. Afterwards, the choice was to eat, or visit Madame Tussauds - family Dench couldn’t afford both. We voted to eat and spent the rest of the day clapping runners long after the roads had reopened and taking photographs of the Mount Street sign in Mayfair, the name of the street on which we lived in Weymouth.

Vaguely remembering the LM drill, I dress myself and daughter Grace in layers, pack various snacks, gather some friends and head to a spot on the Embankment in front of the splendid Somerset House. I show the very tall man who turns up to block our view a picture of my wife. “She’s dressed as Wonder Woman, if you see her coming, let me know”. The very tall man says he can see Wonder Woman. It’s not my wife (or the race has been very unkind). An uncle texts to say he’s just seen Michelle overtake celebrity Chris Evans on the BBC’s television coverage. Formula one racing driver Jenson Button motors past, followed in a blink of an eye, by Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey Russel, several more Wonder Women, a Dalek, a woman framed as the Mona Lisa, Jesus nailed to a cross, a telephone, the Honey Monster, a large ear and lots of men called Dave - much to the annoyance of my friend Dave. After two hours of gobbling Jammy Dodger biscuits, fruit juice cartons and Violet Creams, my wife runs past with a quick wave to the family.


27th I appreciate football chat can be tiresome, please indulge me or skip this paragraph. Tonight my team, AFC Bournemouth, secured a place in the first tier of English football for the first time in their 116 year history. I’ve been a supporter for 26 of those years enduring away days to the pits of Portsmouth and Leeds and wet nights on the terraces at Southend and Wycombe. I don’t have Sky Sports TV so watch the penultimate match of the season (home against Bolton) at Sue and Dave’s house. As a photojournalist I’ve experienced many extreme emotions; tonight was unique. After a reasonable intake of beer, and wine, and vodka, I return home too excitable to sleep and (according to my wife) drink for a further three hours, arms aloft, swaying in the corner of my kitchen whispering “we did it” while replaying tunes from the CD, The Very Best Club Anthems …Ever! In the morning, I log on to Facebook, change my status to ‘in a relationship’ (with AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe) and check the seat number on my ticket for the final game of the season away to Charlton Athletic that Geoff, my brother-in-law traded favours to acquire; right game, wrong end.

A version of this feature first appeared in volume 3 issue 3 of Hungry Eye magazine available to purchase here

The British Abroad and all my other books can be purchased here

Friday, 9 October 2015


  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: The Bluecoat Press (19 Oct. 2015)
  • Available to order HERE

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

 “In the summer 2015, award winning photojournalist, Peter Dench, was unleashed to photograph the iconic city of Dallas, Texas. Dench’s journey took him across the vast urban landscape capturing the colour and characters he met along the way. His forensic eye reveals a place far removed from the fantasies of film and television, a contrasting metroplex of baseball caps and cowboy hats, horsepower and horses. DENCH DOES DALLAS, the book and exhibition, is a saturated slap about the senses, a sideways glance at a fully loaded, remarkable American territory.”

 ©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

Monday, 27 July 2015

Dench Diary : November 2014 - January 2015

November 2014

14th It’s a very British triple book launch at The Photographers’ Gallery in London and the bookshop is swell. John Bulmer’s tower of Wind of Change are being swiftly signed away; Patrick Ward is diminishing his stack of Being English and my pile of A & E: Alcohol and England, has had to be replenished. Looking around, it’s a bit like a wedding; a room full of people I’m glad are here but can’t spend as much time talking too as I’d like. Those who have taken time to attend are friends who were generally there at the beginning of my career, and I hope, will be there for a beer at the end.

16th I fasten the Very Very Important Person [VVIP] wristband on and take my place in line with 34 other VVIP’s as we make our delayed way to the front row of a room of slightly peeved and envious thousands. The young and beautiful female compere, gingerly navigates the rucked stage carpet as the audience leer and jeer; the microphone slightly distorts her dulcet voice. The crowd gasps, I dare say, quivers, as tanned Hollywood action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger (shorter than you might think), fist-pumps into view.  After an entertaining hour in the company of Arnie and his anecdotes, the VVIP’s, who have paid £2000 to be here, are escorted upstairs to a private room of the Lancaster Hotel in London for a more intimate audience. Arnie firmly navigates the room, signing the red dressed breasts of Pang, who is visiting from Great Yarmouth with her partner, Darren. He signs DVD covers for Howard, who has a friend who has met Arnie 56 times. I meet Arnie for the first time and ask if he’s any life-advice? “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pretend you do.” That’s advice I can live by. I ask if I can get him a glass of champagne. Arnie moves on. I get myself a shot of Vodka champagne flavoured with creme de cassis (yet to be officially released in the UK) and tuck into the VVIP nuts; olives; mini burgers and bangers with a mash dip.

18th I receive a letter from the office of prime minister David Cameron saying thank you for the copy of A & E I sent him. Thank You! I was hoping to be summoned to an audience with the PM and bestowed the title of Booze Tzar of Britain.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

20th People often ask why I choose to live in London when there is no longer the need and finances are tight; I often ask myself the same question. Checking the diary explains the benefits: book launch at The Photographer’s Gallery; a corporate shoot on Oxford Street; a last minute commission to attend the Schwarzenegger event and tonight’s leaving drinks for Telegraph Magazine Director of Photography, Cheryl Newman, hosted at the newly opened Salmontini in Belgravia. It would have cost me a months rent in travel to London and overnight accommodation for the past week alone. Cheryl ‘Chezza’ Newman, has in my opinion, been consistently the best picture editor in Europe for over a decade. Chezza has commissioned me to photograph inside Europe’s largest brothel (12 floors of whores); on the set of television series This Life: Ten Years On; Footballers’ Wives; Green Wing; Rev and Scott & Bailey. She has sent me to Finland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, America, Rwanda and many places in between. She has insisted I party with models and Maharaja’s and signed off mini-bar expenses that would have significantly reduced the national debt . By her own admission, she awarded me the best commission that came her way during her 16-year tenure; a week travelling across India with billionaire Vijay Mallya. As she delivers her farewell to the wishing her well crowd, another chapter in the collapse of editorial photography publishing is witnessed.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

21st I receive an email inviting me to attend dinner at the House of Lords with guest speaker, Alastair Campbell. The advise is to dress casual. I make a note to dry clean my Fila tracksuit.

22nd My daughter, Grace, is ten years old today. Friends and family begin to message. ‘Where does the time go?’ I can tell you where the time goes: Getting up at 6am; hospital and doctors appointments; dental check-ups; swimming club; running club; basketball and netball club; school drop off; school pick-up; off-school sick days; changing beds; making beds; homework; flute lessons; animation club; play rehearsals; trips to the zoo; trips to the aquarium; visits to museums; dropping off at friends houses; holidays; picking up from friends houses; washing clothes; ironing clothes; putting away clothes; cooking meals; preparing lunches; collecting cuddles; choosing pets; bike rides; scooter rides; piggyback rides; tickle time; bath time; hair cuts; brushing hair; drying hair. Among others.

24th I’m sat tightly holding Grace’s hand (the one that’s not fractured) in clinic 1b at The Whittington Hospital in north London. There’s a light shade streaked with blood; a woman screams as she plummets to a gory death from an upstairs balcony. It’s hardly an appropriate television show to be screening and I’m relieved when our names are called out for our appointment.

26th I’ve been invited to take a tour of the Getty Images archive housed in west London. There are millions upon millions of photographs by some of the worlds most respected photographers. I can open any door; pull a box from any shelve; turn the page of any magazine. “Peter, what would you like to see?” asks my host, arcing his arm across the army of receding shelves. I consider this for a short time. “Got any nineteenth-century pornography?”

29th People often ask  me if I’m an alcoholic. I know I’m not an alcoholic because I know Pete Crowley. I first met Pete in 2001 when he was a resident at Alex 1, the alcohol treatment unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, Kent, where he was being treated for alcohol addiction. I was invited there to photograph him. Two photographs documenting his treatment feature in the A & E book. Today I take some pastries around to Pete’s flat; he’s been dry for eight years. As we munch blueberry muffins with his girlfriend, she explains after one particular binge, thinking it might be best to lock Pete in his flat. Pete explains that if she had, he’d have jumped through the window to get another bottle of booze. Pete lives on the top floor of a tall block of apartments. I wouldn’t jump out of the top floor of a block of apartments for a bottle of booze. 

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

30th My wife and daughter have gone away for the weekend; this worries me. Afraid of being left to my own, often self-destructive devices, I have scheduled two portraits for my reportage of female fitness models, to avoid sitting in my pants all morning watching The Football League Show on BBC iPlayer while waiting for The Alex bar and restaurant to open. My first meeting is with Aleksandra in Palmers Green; I arrive in the vicinity of her home half-an-hour early. As I watch the drivers irritably navigate through drizzling rain dousing the North Circular road; I bitterly regret not sitting in my pants watching The Football League Show on BBC iPlayer waiting for The Alex bar and restaurant to open.


2nd I have reached another milestone in life; I am no longer visible to attractive women under 40.

5th “My Daddy’s photographed Darcey Bussell” says the irksome girl in class 4F. “I photographed Darcey Bussell when I visited the set of BBC television show, Strictly Come Dancing while on assignment for the The Times magazine ” I reply. “No you haven’t, you’re a liar and I bet you haven’t directed a film for SKY TV? My Daddy has.” she continues, flicking her pigtails behind her massive ears (or tiny head). “No, but I did make my television debut as a presenter on Channel 4 News in September, delivering a piece to camera on What is it to be English?” I add. “Then why are you photographing us in a silly school play?” As the children of Google entrepeneurs; A-list film actors and captains of industry wait their turn, I mumble; “I thought it would be a rewarding and enjoyable thing to do.”

7th I need to buy a Christmas present for my sisters fiancĂ© Geoff. I've only met Geoff twice and ask my sister what he might like. He might like a bottle of Pernod, the anise-flavoured liqueur created after Absinthe was banned. It’s little inconvenient; I not only have to leave Crouch End to find a bottle but also return to 1986.

12th I ask Jim Stephenson, founder of The Miniclick Photo Talks, if I can leech a Brighton book launch of A & E at the Miniclick Christmas party. Jim agrees. I ask the publisher of A & E, if they can send a couple of boxes books to Brighton; they arrive at my home in London. Undeterred, I place two of the 11.9KG boxes into my biggest suitcase and lift it towards the front door; the handle on the suitcase breaks. Undeterred, I raft it down the stairs and drag it to the bus stop just in time to join the after-school crush. I fail to board two buses as pupils from the local High School push in; they don’t go upstairs - most of the Kentucky Fried friends will only travel one-stop. Arriving in Brighton, guests in the intimate room upstairs at Mrs Fitzherberts are more into partying hard than purchasing hardback books. Undeterred, I haul the suitcase back down the stairs and towards Brighton railway station. Millwall, arguably the most violent of England’s football fans, have just triumphed over Brighton and are overwhelming the station concourse. Dressed in my usual attire of a 1982/83 season football hooligan, with a large heavy suitcase and a scalpel in my pocket (used for opening the boxes of books), I feel slightly vulnerable. Undeterred, I board the train home just in time to mingle with the boozed up midnight masses vying for a northbound tube train on the Victoria line; I fail to board two trains before I squeeze onto a third one bound for home.

January 2015

5th First official day back at work; the crows outside my bedroom window claw through a whisked mist morning: I check my bank balance, £0. I check money I owe, £0. I check money I’m owed, £0. I call that a level playing field and begin to slowly crank the year into action.

9th I haven’t had an assignment since mid-November, 2014, and inform my agent, “I’m up for anything.” Turns out anything is taking full length snaps of guests at a menswear fashion party for the Wall Street Journal. I’m provided with a list of around forty luminaries expected to attend; at the top of the list is rapper, Tinie Tempah. Arriving at the party, I’m reminded of one of my first ever professional assignments in 1998, for GQ magazine (except GQ magazine said ‘just take photographs of what you find interesting’). What I found interesting, was shoes and cleavages. When I delivered the contact sheets to the GQ office at Vogue House, I was asked by then Art Director, Tony. “Were you really crawling around on the floor snapping women’s shoes?” I was. Today there is no Tinie Tempah, or crawling on the floor and I struggle to leverage enough space in the crowded house to shoot full-length portraits.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

10th I have a confession to make: I, I, I, I haven’t-had-a-drink-this-year!! There, I said it. It’s the longest I’ve been without an alcoholic drink since birth. It’s been a disappointing experience. I thought my general lethargy; lack of concentration; headaches and constant brooding about my own mortality were a result of the booze. This was an incorrect assumption. Today, the waking ache of another day without the prospect of a drop or a dram is too much and after 10 horrifyingly long days, I decide it is healthier to wake up with a choice. I choose to drink. Next time I expect to give up alcohol, it will only be on the express orders of a doctor. I zip up and on my new red, blue and cream hooded Fila cagoule and head over to The Alex to apologise.

28th After dinner speaker, Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy for Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, is describing the worrying normalisation of alcohol in British society. The Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, seated to my right, nods gently in agreement. Among the sixteen guests sat in the intimate Home Room at the House of Lords, is military top brass; Sirs from the medical profession; robust looking lawyers; comedian and actor, John Thomson and me, an increasingly rare occasion, where I’m one of the younger guests. How exactly did I get here? Drink got me here.

After the book launch of A & E, I sent a copy to Alcohol Concern, a small national charity with a big vision that has been driving attempts to change the drinking culture in the UK. They sent me an invite to dinner to celebrate and discuss Dry January, an awareness campaign and fundraiser to encourage the nation to think about drinking less.

The idea of a Dry January is a bold one. It’s arguably the worst month to give up booze: it’s long, it’s dark, and it contains Blue Monday (typically the third Monday of the month and purported to be the most depressing day of the year). As a freelance photographer, it can be even more depressing: there is generally less work in January than other months (allowing more time to be spent in the pub) and what money there is left at the end of it, is swallowed by the Taxman.

As the cured salmon is rapidly dispatched, followed by rump of lamb and apple treacle tart (served with bramble compote and clotted cream), the conversation around the table in the Home Room is ebullient and frank; probing and profound. Comments from Sir Ian Thomas Gilmore, a professor of hepatology (diseases of the liver) and former president of the Royal College of Physicians of London, are particularly poignant. Baroness Hayter brings the evening to a close and we raise a fizzy water toast “to Dry January.” I heave my frame back through Black Rod’s Garden Entrance (Black Rod is nowhere to be seen) and breathe into a bitterly cold, lamp-lit London and consider a dry February, then swing into Saint Stephen’s Tavern, the closest pub to the Houses of Parliament, for a well earned, very large glass of red.

A version of this feature was first published in Issue 2 Volume 3 of Hungry Eye Magazine available to purchase here


Delighted to have again collaborated with Bluecoat Press to publish The British Abroad 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Dench Diary : July - Novemer 2014

July 2014

27th “What do you do for a job Peter?” It’s an interesting question and I’m not sure of the answer. My business card says photographer but I haven’t had too many photographic assignments this month. Gallerist? Operating as Co-Creative Director at White Cloth Gallery is a daily commitment but it doesn’t feel like a job that defines me. Writer? At the moment, in terms of income generated, that would be the most accurate but if I say that to my inquisitor, they may ask: “what do you write about?” and I’d have to say, “I write about myself mostly” and that would make me sound like a dick. I don’t want to sound like a dick in front of this pouting crimson beauty. An uncomfortable amount of time has passed. “I just do bits and bobs really.” She turns away towards the bar of The Alex and I turn back to my pint.

29th I read a report that heavy social drinkers are at increased risk of liver disease. I do most of my heavy drinking alone so should be OK?


3rd I show my daughter a role of transparency slide film that she studies with curiosity. In another few years, I think she’ll look at a Sunday newspaper magazine supplement in the same way. A recent conversation I had with a public relations expert, they explained that online bloggers were more beneficial to business than print reporters.

©Peter Dench

9th It’s the Dench family summer holiday and the destination is Oslo, Norway. I’m thinking of relocating to Oslo; my wife says she’d feel comfortable and my daughter Grace, although admitting she’d miss her best friend Poppy, is generally OK with the idea. I roll the possibility around my head as my eyes rove over the six packs of Norwegian white beer. I opt for the White Dog wheat beer and place it into my basket alongside the charcuterie. At the checkout, I’m informed no alcohol can be served after 6pm on a Saturday. It’s 6.05pm (5.05pm in the UK). The Dench family will not be moving to this barbaric country of fluffy-jumper-wearing-whale-killers.

16th Former England footballer and Tottenham Hotspur legend, Gary Mabbutt, deftly flicks the ball towards former captain of the Netherlands national team and 1988 UEFA European Championship victor, Ruud Gullit, who controls it on his chest before playing a neat low pass to Holy Trinity Junior School football league winner and vice captain of Weymouth Grammar School, Peter Dench, who toe-pokes it back to Mabbutt. On the 18th July, 2007, after a penetratingly cold boat ride through nose-dripping sea fog, I arrived on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned. I was part of a FIFA contingent visiting the island ahead of a special 90 minutes for Mandela football match to be played at the Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa in the evening, honouring Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday; Mabbutt and Gullit would play in a Rest of the World XI against an African XI. We’d toured the prison together; chatted to some former inmates and had our photograph taken with the most decorated African player of all time, Samuel Eto'o, before a glorious and spontaneous kick about broke out in the grounds of the prison against a backdrop of razor wire and guard towers. It’s a memory firmly embedded in my top 10 football highlights of all-time and one I’m reminding Gullit of as he prepares for punditry alongside Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker for tonight’s BBC Match of the Day programme. I’m on set shooting a behind-the-scenes reportage for the Telegraph Magazine in the shows 50th anniversary year. Gullit has no idea who I am and only a vague idea of what I’m talking about. 

 ©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

21st “You’ve lost weight.” I didn’t know I’d gained weight. “Your face doesn’t look so flabby.” I didn’t know my face had become flabby. In between ego checks from my mother, I’m dipping into her box of old family photographs and pulling out a handful to show Grace. There’s one of me at my sisters wedding, dressed in borrowed clothes after I spent the £150 my mother had given me to buy a new outfit on 170 cans of Tennent’s lager. There’s one from an early 1980’s Christmas morning; my sister is holding a ghetto blaster and I hold up my first computer, an Acorn Electron (the budget version of the more poplar BBC computer preferred in classrooms); a third photograph, from 1982, shows my sister and I sharing a yellow Pac Man game which was to be played “in the breakfast room only” as it was too noisy for the lounge. Grace is thrilled to be witnessing these prompts from the past and I make a decision to be more disciplined in printing out digital files for her own box of tangible childhood memories.

 ©Peter Dench

28th I’ve been invited as a take-over guest for the @telegraphtelephoto Instagram feed. Five to ten photographs are to be posted over a three-day period. It sounds like a challenge and one I choose to take seriously. I’ve not got much on this week so opt to produce a sequence of images about Crouch End, the area of north London in which I live. I post a photograph of ‘cardboard cut out Dench’ in bed (38 likes), unloading the food shopping (26 likes) and cleaning the living room (35 likes). I Instagram a rainbow over The Alex (41 likes); a cricket match (37 likes); my tubby tennis partner Johnny (13 likes) and a spilt fast food drink on the seat of a number 29 bus to Camden (45 likes). Struggling to fill my quota, I grab a routine shot of a Maserati sports car parked at the end of my street. It’s parked there most days, more a weekend drive for it’s owner who prefers a silver Porsche convertible as their daily run-around. I choose the Inkwell filter with white border and give it a bit of linear tilt and shift (146 likes).

©Peter Dench


7th “Girls. Remember; do not stand with your legs open. EVER!” I’ve decided to add to my photo-series on the UK and am investigating the world of male and female natural fitness competitors. I'm at a pre-competition boot camp hosted by champion Ms Bikini athlete, Emma Louise Burrows at her studio in Debden. She is helping clients show off what they have achieved in the gym with grace and style ahead of the 2014 Musclemania British Championship.

13th It’s the day of the Musclemania British Championship and I’m maneuvering with caution around the male dressing rooms located in the basement of The Shaw Theatre; it’s a squashed and sweaty affair of nearly naked men rubbing, rehearsing, flexing. I pull out my notebook and bright pink pen, make a mental note not to use a bright pink pen in future, open my notebook and write: ‘Revise project to FEMALE natural fitness competitors.’

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

16th Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, is stood next to a boxing ring wearing his trademark colourful tie, pontificating on the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. He turns away from the gathered crowd to deliver a piece to camera: “The prospect of a border is causing many on the southern side to reassess what it actually means to be not British but English. We’ve been out in the sun in Southend enjoying that very English thing, the seaside, with photographer, Peter Dench, who has spent his career capturing Englishness. This is his take on our national identity.” On Friday, I had indeed spend the day in Southend with a news crew, delivering from memory around 600 words to camera at various locations along the promenade. The feature was edited and ready for broadcast on the Monday; then bumped on to Tuesday’s running order. The only occurrence that could have scuppered my appearance, was the Queen’s death or perhaps the discovery of Madeleine McCann; I would acquiesce to both. Two minutes after Snow’s introduction, my television presenter debut is over.

25th I push a digit towards the door bell on the unassuming suburban north London house and press. A beautiful woman wrapped amongst folds of soft clothing asks me inside. We sit in the kitchen and chat about Poland, the land of her father. She asks; “Would you like me to put on my bikini?” I ask; “Could you put on the skimpy blue one with the sparkly fastenings?” She does and I begin to photograph Kaz, stood in the lounge and garden with her third place trophy in the Bikini Figure Category achieved at her first competitive fitness competition; the 2014 Muslcemania British Championships.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

30th After three challenging, inspiring and engaging years, I am no longer involved with White Cloth Gallery in any capacity. The vision for taking the business forward became increasingly contrary with that of the investors and all parties have made a clean break to explore new opportunities. To everyone who exhibited, visited and supported the enterprise during my tenure as Co-Creative Director; THANK YOU.


4th My wife gently takes the hand of another man and disappears through an open door. I stand fixed, emasculated, waves of nausea ripple along my length. I imagine David Murphy (played by Woody Harrelson) must have felt the same as he witnessed his wife Diana (Demi Moore) leave to spend a night with John Cage (Robert Redford) for an agreed fee of one million dollars. I feel even more nauseous when the the pin-prick of an airplane is heard passing overhead and they plummet together from over 10,000 feet into a big blue sky. During our 19-year relationship, my wife had repeatedly commented: “I’d like to do a skydive.” “I’d like to do a skydive.” “I’d like to do a skydive.” It didn’t seem such an Indecent Proposal, so for her 40th birthday, I bought her one.

©Peter Dench

17th Our house rabbit, Carrots, bites clean through the live wire of our vacuum cleaner as my wife is cleaning his cage; around 240 volts shoot through his teeth and gums and exit via his left ear, leaving a singed crop of whiskers. I rush the remarkably-still-alive Carrots to the vet; the bill is £38. My wife rushes the vacuum cleaner to the repair shop; the bill is £38.

©Peter Dench

23rd The Hospital Club is a private members’ club and centre for London’s creative community. I’m sat in the bar discussing television and film documentary proposals. “Peter, what sort of television presenter would you describe yourself as?” It’s not a question I ever thought I’d be asked and consider it carefully, the answer could open doors, bestow riches. “I take less drugs than Hunter S. Thompson; am less posh than Louis Theroux and probably more affordable than Martin Parr.” There is the sound of no doors opening.

25th Sitting in bed, wandering what to do on a Saturday without the family, I check Twitter for inspiration. A Tweet announces AFC Bournemouth football fans can pay cash on the turnstile at today's away fixture at Birmingham City. I check the watch; roll out of the feather; pull on some Fila branded clobber and take the rattler from Euston Station. Two-and-a-half hours later I’m in the stands watching my team record their biggest league away win ever, 0-8. The last time I travelled to Birmingham City away, rocks were thrown through the windows of the coach in which I was travelling and the toilet in the away end had no roof; it was raining heavily. It’s been an emotional day but I decide not to cry, and to stop watching Danny Dyer inspired films about football hooliganism, or to try and get myself work as an extra in one.

©Peter Dench

29th With the absence of White Cloth Gallery income I’ve asked Getty Images if I can shoot for the wire; I’ve never shot for the Getty Images wire before and like the sound of it - immediate and real, - operating like a proper snapper. Today is my first attempt and I peer up into a grey north London sky; button on a grey shirt and stride into Central Hall Westminster and a dimly lit room of flapping grey suits. During Serbian Investment Day, I photograph individual speakers and panel discussions on topics such as: Doing business in Serbia; A practical guide. Promoting export and bilateral economic partnerships between UK and Serbia and Truth and Myth; The realities of doing business in Serbia. At the evening drinks reception, I’m reliably informed the BBC Television sitcom, Only Fools and Horses, is very popular among Serbians.


1st The relentless pursuit of material for my FitnessUK reportage continues; this Halloween weekend, I’m off to [creepy] Crawley and The Hawth Theatre, venue for the Miss Galaxy Universe competition. The atmosphere backstage is intense as the announcements for the accolades begin, including, among others: Most Curvaceous; Yummy Mummy; Miss Monroe International; Best Newcomer; Most Inspiring; Overall Fitness Champion and my favourite - Best Behind.

©Peter Dench

5th Ebola; a virus disease that is indiscriminately exterminating thousands of people and contaminating thousands more in west Africa. Cases are being reported in Europe and across the globe. These are worrying times; cautious, considered international travel is advised. You wont catch me putting myself or my family at unnecessary risk. The first plane I board since confirmation the outbreak is back to Oslo and it’s ice cool climate, to meet up with friend and photographer, Marcus Bleasdale. Arriving at his home, I cork a cheeky bottle of Languedoc-Roussillon wine and ask what he’s been up to? “Extensively covering the crisis in the Central African Republic and related issues across the border.”

13th Tonight is the launch of my second visual monograph, A&E: Alcohol & England at The Photographers’ Gallery, London and collect cardboard cut out Dench to accompany me for the trip.

You can complete a hat-trick of my publications on Britishness by pre ordering The British Abroad  hardback photo book via Kickstarter [until 5th April : free UK shipping : £10 worldwide]

A version of this feature first appeared in Issue 1 Volume 3 of Hungry Eye available to purchase here

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The British Abroad : Magaluf

The first time I went abroad was in 1986; the destination was the party town of Magaluf, Majorca. Aged 14, already a seasoned beer drinker, my parents decided it was OK for me to have an alcoholic spirit in my drink; the alcoholic spirit I chose was the white rum, Bacardi. Bacardi was cheaper than coke (my mixer of choice) and the measures reflected that. The bars delivered a buy one, get two free offer and my mum, dad and older sister (by three years) Jennifer, clattered 12 glasses onto our uneven metal table outside the Benny Hill party pub, not far from the Green Parrot Bollocks bar. We slowly sucked back the potent sugary blend through bendy straws and watched the mayhem gather.

In the morning, my dad asked if I was OK? I told him I was fine. He asked If I remembered being woken from the bath in our hotel room on several occasions during the night. I told him I did not and suggested we go for a full English breakfast. My dad pulled on his dark blue swimming trunks with light blue trim; I pulled on my light blue swimming trunks with dark blue trim; we both pulled up a chair at our beach bar of choice and washed the omnipresent English staple down with a couple of beers.

The remainder of the holiday was spent bouncing down newly built water slides on bleak mountainsides (I doubt the slides had the required safety standard kite mark); watching fixed grin dolphins perform predictable tricks and flicks with a ball and bobbing around in the sea with my frequently topless mum and sister (according to the poorly framed and focused film photographs that remain in the album).

I did not drink any more Bacardi.

The second time I went abroad was in 1989; the destination was the party town of Magaluf, Majorca. My family had been replaced with friends Marc, Jason and Stuart. At our hotel, boys from Bury hurled carrier bags containing their bottom deposits from the balcony into unsuspecting fun seekers staggering along the street below. Two girls from Newcastle, in an adjacent bedroom, warned us not to leave our towels to dry on the balcony as the sun turned them yellow; it wasn’t the sun that turned them yellow - it was more body deposits cascading down from the Bury boys. 

During the day, we carried our money around in plastic tubes hung from string around our necks; during the night, we left the plastic tubes that carried our daily allowance in the back of taxis or at the bar. On our second morning, Jason woke up stuck to his hotel bed sheets, a layer of skin the length of his now red raw torso had been removed; he had no memory of how it happened. A few days later, as we passed a deep roadworks excavation, he remembered.

The remainder of the holiday was spent buying imitation Kappa and Lacoste polo shirts, sweatbands and tracksuits; losing our drinks-tally card that you needed to pay to exit the dance club BCM (not a good strategy for a club) and unsuccessfully trying to endorse the reputation of the town dubbed, Shagaluf.

I did not drink Bacardi.

In 2013, I returned to Magaluf, Majorca, for a third (and probably final) time to document the British party phenomenon. It was one of five locations I chose from some of Europe's most popular beach destinations: Ibiza, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia completes the quintet.

I think the photographs will make a terrific book that can be appreciated for many years and provide an important permanent document of this unique slice of British life abroad. An edit from the reportage can be viewed here

I’ve set up a Kickstarter crowd funding page; if funding is a success, I’ll be collaborating with Bluecoat Press, who published my second visual monograph A&E: Alcohol & England, last year. Bluecoat Press will again design, print and distribute The British Abroad hardback book.

In addition to the more traditional 35mm colour reportage, there's a section of images shot with the Lomography Diana F+ camera like the one above, of 26-year old Daisy from Clapham, south London. If you know Daisy, please forward her contact details; I'd like to say "hi" and send her a print.


You can pre-order the book via the Kickstarter page along with many other rewards and incentives I think you’ll enjoy. Please feel free to share the campaign and together we can make this book happen.

After photographing a wet t-shirt competition at Mambo’s Bar in Magaluf, I decided I deserved a drink, called over the barman and firmly requested a Bacardi and coke, raised it up, took a sniff,  shuddered violently and lowered the glass onto the bar. After 28 years, I still can't drink Bacardi.

©Peter Dench 2015

Monday, 24 November 2014

Dench Diary : April - July 2014

April 2014

The only way I come home to a cooked meal is if I come home, cook a meal, go out and come back home.

12th My agency have the task of commissioning photographers to shoot wall-art for branches of a well known bank and I’ve been assigned 13 of them, it’s a cushy number. The client has identified a local landmark to be photographed for each branch; they don’t want any people in the shot so the photograph must be taken early in the morning, the sun must be shining and no post production is required. Basically, I get to earn some money without having to talk to anyone while taking a stroll in the London sunshine and be finished before pub opening time (even before the Crouch End Wetherspoon). At my first location, there’s a massive road excavation in front of the desired local landmark; at another, the sun is directly behind the local landmark; another is covered with scaffolding and at a fourth location, a giant tent has been erected from which to sell sell German sausages, a giant German flag flies dominantly in the breeze. I do my best and submit the files.

25th On the way home from an afternoon session at The Alex (formerly Villiers Terrace) I pick up two 330ml bottles of Peroni from the off licence next door. As the Friday night commuter cars nudge slowly towards Muswell Hill, I like to assume the occupants peering thirstily from the windows are thinking ‘what a sensible chap, taking two bottles of Peroni home to enjoy with his (self-cooked) evening meal.' The Peroni isn’t to drink at home, it’s in case I need a drink on the way home; the number of steps from The Alex to my front door is 325 (less from my front door to The Alex).

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

30th I visit photographer Brian Griffin to interview him for this magazine. Griffin won’t be forgotten by history but he understands a photographer has to work hard to be remembered. I think about this on the recoil from his neighbourhood in south London back to mine in north London. There are limited slots in the history books for each generation, often allocated by a self-selected few; academics who haven’t a talent for taking photographs; gallerists who need to make a profit from the exhibitions they choose to show; photographers who haven’t taken a picture for some time trading on a reputation achieved some time ago. I ponder how I’ll be remembered, or if I’ll be remembered, or if I even should.

Arriving home later than usual, my wife is preparing something in the kitchen, this is unusual. “What’s for dinner darling?” “There’s nothing in the fridge, I’m making sandwiches for my lunch." When she’s done making sandwiches for her lunch, I take a look in the fridge. For dinner I serve chilli, ginger and garlic prawns in a tomato sauce with onion, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, fresh green beans, tinned cannelloni beans and parmesan shavings. My wife says; “It’s delicious.”

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images


1st It’s the day of the inaugural Hungry Eye roadshow #Exposed 1; 'created to introduce the Hungry Eye philosophy and its people to people in various pockets of the UK. The hope is to offer real insight, advice and opportunity to those who might be willing/able/interested enough to join in for the day.’ The destination for the day is Falmouth University. Falmouth isn’t so much a pocket of the UK as roll-up cigarette dropped in the turn-up of a long forgotten pair of flared jeans. The return train journey back to London is so long I manage to sober up twice.

21st Some of the photographs I delivered of local landmarks to be displayed in the branches of a well known bank have been rejected by the client; one has been rejected because there are not enough green leaves on the trees; another because the scene looks ‘too cold’ and a third because the clouds look threatening. There is no budget for a re-shoot; I pick up my kit back and head out to re-shoot.


8th *repeat gag alert* [see Hungry Eye Issue 4 Volume 1]. My wife ran her first marathon in April 2014, now she doesn’t get out of bed for less than 10K. This morning, my nine year old daughter is running the 5K Race for the Kids in Battersea Park and must be accompanied by an adult, I get out of bed. Not wanting to embarrass my daughter, I’d decided to do a test run on a recent visit to Weymouth. On the train to Weymouth, I read in my wife’s Runner’s World magazine, the article - Run Your First 5K; there were 12 tips. ‘Tip 7 - eat or drink nothing new the night before or the morning of the race, this is not the time to experiment.’ Adhering to that advice, I drank a bottle and a half of Merlot the night before and had a burp for breakfast, completing the Weymouth test 5K in around 40 minutes. This morning I’m feeling confident, having only drank one bottle of Malbec the night before; I visualise, in slow motion, the cheerleaders that have jollied the runners around the Battersea course the previous two years as they flash their knickers thrusting up their tanned long legs shouting “go Dench, go Dench, go Dench.” Arriving at the race, there are no cheerleaders and the warm up lady looks like my mother-in-law Helen. Approaching the finish line I take off my sweat saturated t-shirt; my daughter remarks that I look like Dr Zoideberg without his shell, the fictional pink flabby lobster-esque character in the television series Futurama. I forget to apply ‘Tip 12; smile as you finish and raise your arms in triumph, like the champ you are.’

9th After the northern film premier of Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist at White Cloth Gallery, Leeds, UK, I travelled back to London with the films director, James Erskine. He told me about his new film, Shooting for Socrates, a David v Goliath tale set amongst the troubles in Belfast against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s participation in the 1986 football world cup finals and their much anticipated match against Brazil. Erskine invited me along to today’s recording of that Northern Ireland teams 86’ tongue-in-cheek anthem, ‘We’re Not Brazil, We’re Northern Ireland’ for the film soundtrack. Arriving at the south west London recording studio, I’m excited to see footballing legends David Campbell and Gerry Armstong pulling on authentic looking jersey’s and tracksuits for the rehearsal and squeeze past global rockers and Snow Patrol band members Gary Lightbody and guitarist Jonny Quinn to say hello.

I have been married twelve years; I decide to take my wife out for dinner.

11th Today I achieved another milestone in life; I am now too-fat-for-slim-fit.

18th My daughter has finally admitted to her school friends what I do for a living (or what she thinks I do for a living) and volunteered me to photograph her class fashion show; it’s the most nervous I’ve been on a shoot and most powerful I’ve felt - I don’t take a photograph of her classmate Rory after his dad and I had a disagreement over seating arrangements at the 2012 school Christmas play.

I cook a nice extra portion of spiced Moroccan lamb as I’m working late the next day and would like to have a cooked dinner to come home to. Arriving home the following evening, I ask my wife what she had for dinner; “I found a nice portion of spiced Moroccan lamb in the fridge.”

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

21st In August 1998, The Sunday Times Magazine commissioned my first ‘proper’ assignment, a reportage of life in Britain’s most sociable roadside lay-by. I think it was the photographer, Simon Roberts, who once advised on shooting projects, something along the lines of; ‘do it different, do it better, or do it five-years later.’ It’s been sixteen years since I spent a weekend in the Old Willoughby Hedge lay-by next to the A303 and I think I could do it different and better. I call my friend Ben and we decide to shoot a video - 24 hours in the life of a lay-by. Arriving in the Wiltshire off-cut just before sunset, the lay-by is overgrown and deserted. I purchase a four-pack of Strongbow cider at a garage and watch the sun set over nearby Stonehenge before Ben drives us back to London.

28th Continuing my effort to be more proactive in my daughters school life, I have volunteered for an hour to supervise the bouncy castle at the summer fair; admission is £1 for ten minutes, a maximum of eight people allowed on at one time. Rory arrives and asks if he can go on? “That’ll be £2 please Rory.”

 ©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images


4th “Focus.” A bejewelled butt plug falls from the backside of Stella Cox (not her real name), a young porn actress from Reading and rolls across the grubby wooden floor towards my foot. Cox is relatively new to the industry; she hasn’t yet found a way to tell her parents that she does this kind of work. She doesn’t think her mum will mind too much but suspects her dad will have concerns. The bejewelled butt plug is cleaned, re-lubed and thumbed back into position. “Focus.” It’s very busy in the damp basement of a prestigious W1 London address; there’s Stella Cox of course, co-talent George from the Czech Republic (definitely not Jewish), a director, cameraman, stills photographer, make-up artist, sound recorder, two security guards and a curious number of guests including Pete, dressed in khaki knee-length shorts, who I’m reliably informed, owns a giant used car dealership near Heathrow. “Don’t forget the tits.” Other more elegantly dressed guests loiter on set, smoking decadently, checking their iPhones and sipping Jameson’s brand whisky. “Focus.” As the camera rolls, I stifle a sneeze; a cough; a yawn and am in constant crisis about dropping my pen. “Vagina to arse with condom is fine.” As I watch the bejewelled butt plug dance around in the camera light, I’m reminded of the title sequence of the mid-to-late 1970’s children’s television programme, Jamie and His Magic Torch; when Jamie shines his Magic Torch on the floor of his bedroom a hole appears, leading Jamie and Wordsworth the sheepdog to the psychedelic fantasy world of Cuckooland. “Fingers back to mouth please.” This feels like Cuckooland; a red glow emanates from two doors, mouse traps are accidentally kicked along scuffed walls and sex toys lie glistening in a box.  As Czech George continues to manipulate his generous girth into seemingly impossible positions, the guests start to dwindle. I last as long as I can before exiting late into the night for the last tube home and try to remember why exactly, I was invited along.

11th It’s my daughters school sports day and I have volunteered to count the number of sideways jumps each competitor completes over a low lying metal bar; Rory is up next, he doesn’t do very well.

12th It’s 26˚C in Crouch End Priory Park and I’m enjoying playing hoopla with my daughter. Three recently emptied beer cans provide the target for the hoops. Grace suggests it would be a good idea to play ten pin bowling using a tennis ball; I concur and pop to the shop for seven more cans to empty before the game can begin.

16th A few years ago, I sped-read an email received from a man asking if I wanted to photograph him for a project and that he was happy to be naked for the occasion. I didn’t want to photograph a naked man and moved what I assumed was spam email quickly into the trash. The Tim Andrew’s project, Over the Hill; a Photographic Journey, has now had over 300 photographers contributing a portrait of Tim, who is degenerating from Parkinson’s disease. Work from the archive has been published in a plethora of respected publications, blogged countless times online, exhibited in galleries across the UK and featured on BBC2 televisions, The Culture Show. Today I set off for Tim’s home in Brighton; the plan is for  a spot of lunch to chat things through, shoot some pictures then celebrate afterwards in the pub. Arriving at Tim’s, I’m given a glass of water and informed the trip to the pub is cancelled as the scaffolders are due to start work in an hour. I get out my camera and ask Tim to take off his shirt.

A version of this feature first appeared in issue 4 volume 2 of Hungry Eye magazine, available to purchase here

My 2nd visual monograph, Alcohol and England, is available to purchase here 

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: The Bluecoat Press (23 Oct 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1908457236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908457233
  • Product Dimensions: 29 x 1.8 x 27 cm