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 fiancé 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

Friday, 24 October 2014

New Book Released : A&E

Published by The Bluecoat Press: available via Amazon & Waterstones

Pickled. Soused. Mullered. Blotto. Hog-whimpering. Pie-eyed.  Tired and emotional; downwind of a few. The presence of so many words and phrases in the English language, to describe a state of inebriation, surely says something about the English themselves: this is a nation that seeks the comfort of oblivion - towards the bottom of a bottle.

But why do the English tipple until they fall over? Is it simply the weather, so wearyingly unpredictable? Is it to overcome the awkwardness inherent in a half-denied class system? Is it just because the English are more culturally advanced, and have realised there is no cure for the human condition but nice-tasting painkillers?

All these possibilities are explored in Peter Dench’s witty, clever, poignant, challenging, sometimes dazzling, sometimes affecting photo-diary of Anglo-Celtic drunkenness. The result is a unique and compelling visual history, full of photography that bears a striking resemblance to the drinking it depicts: at best it is perfectly intoxicating. Sean Thomas

A & E: Alcohol and England
Photographer Peter Dench
ISBN: 9781908457233
Format: Hardback (270x290mm)156pp
RP: £19.99

The Bluecoat Press will be hosting a very English triple book launch at The Photographers' Gallery in London UK on the 13th November 2014 - details here

Monday, 25 August 2014

Dench Diary : January - April 2014

I read a report that mouthwash containing alcohol can significantly increase the risk of oral cancer; I stop using mouthwash.

25th “Are you Peter Dench?” “Yes I am.” “I knew it was you, you’re wearing the same clothes”. I’m not wearing the same clothes. On Thursday, for my presentation at the Dokfoto festival in Oslo, I wore a red Fila lambswool sweater with blue and white trim and a long-sleeved blue Fila crew-neck T-shirt. Sitting in the audience for today’s festival presentations by Kadir Van Lohuizen, Anna Claren and Newsha Tavakolian, I’m wearing a blue Fila lambswool sweater with white and red trim and a long-sleeved white Fila roll-neck. I explain this to my inquisitor, she seems nonplussed.  

29th A company who make gloves get in touch to ask if I will endorse their product. The gloves provide the wearer with unparalleled levels of comfort and grip, in all weathers and conditions. The gloves are perfect for all levels of sport and available in a wide range of sizes, they are designed to adapt to changes in temperature and moisture levels, ensuring that the wearer benefits from their ‘all grip, no slip’ technology. The unique materials used for the gloves mean that they fit like a second skin, never causing any disruption to the wearer. They sound fabulous and I ask about a fee; the fee would be a pair of gloves.

I read a report that the high salt content in soluble vitamin C can significantly increase the risk of heart attack and strokes; I stop taking soluble vitamin C.


2nd On the 26th December 2013, I posted my first picture on Instagram, a headshot of my daughter. My daughter usually resents me taking her photograph but is happy and smiling. I take another of her waving from her bedroom window, holding her bunny, playing the flute and at the fair. I’m perhaps preaching to the converted, but Instagram is a revelation, putting the joy back into taking photographs without the reasoning of Barthes or Brecht on my back. I Instagram a puddle that looks like a heart, a ripped net curtain that looks like a heart and the interior tube of of a toilet roll that looks like a heart #bumlove. I Instagram a Voga class [half Yoga half Voguing], a couple under an umbrella and a man exhausted on the beach after the Brighton marathon. I snap a double rainbow over Villiers Terrace, the sun setting over Villiers Terrace, the talented and lovely Farnham University student, Lois Banks, on a visit to Villiers Terrace and the varied views from my my seat at Villiers Terrace. I Instagram family Selfies, details of my lounge and even individual portraits of my wife. I look forward to Instagramming; I go for walks purely to Instagram and leave early for meetings in case there’s an Instagram moment along the way. I don’t obsess about followers and follow people obsessed with Instagramming food and flowers, cats and dogs, shoes and cars. For me, for some reason, I obsess about Instagramming discarded mattresses. Part of the appeal of Instagram is not being encumbered with a traditional camera, the use of which is becoming increasingly rare in my role as an image maker. Recent assignments have preferred the pen, the iPhone and the Autographer, a small, wearable, hands-free and fully automatic camera, you don’t even have to put down your pint to take a picture; that’s my kind of camera. 

20th My wife and I go to see the Oscar nominated film, The Wolf of Wall Street; it’s three hours long. We prepare in Pizza Express with a Peroni each and share a bottle of Prosecco. En route to the cinema, a bottle of Rioja is purchased from M&S. Half way through the film, the wine runs out, a rookie mistake. I first took alcohol into the cinema [when alcohol wasn’t welcome in the cinema] aged 14, to see the premier of Crocodile Dundee, a screening to which my friend, Dave Thomas, had won tickets in a competition. We drank a four pack of Fosters lager in homage to it’s Australian on-screen-star, Paul Hogan. The first time I experienced a bar actually in a cinema, was inevitably in Germany, where cans of Heineken were efficiently dispatched to accompany the black and white Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night being shown in a Berlin cinema adjacent to the best known Berlin wall crossing point, Checkpoint Charlie. As the Wolf of Wall Street credits roll, I shake the final flecks of Rioja from my groin, and head into Villiers Terrace for a bottle of house red and a bullet shot of bourbon and reflect on how expensive the cinema experience has become.

I read a report that hidden sugar in food significantly increases the risk of heart disease; I start reducing my sugar intake.

24th After a meeting at Getty Images London HQ, I decide to walk home and plot the route on; it informs the distance is 3.5 miles and the estimated time, 56 minutes burning 385 calories, all of which sounds agreeable and I begin the romp towards Crouch End. Three hours and six pints of cider later, I arrive home feeling refreshed.

The Date from Peter Dench on Vimeo shot using Autographer


2nd I’m running, running as fast as I can; children are overtaking me to the left and children are overtaking me to the right. I can see the soles of my nine year old daughter’s running shoes. I shouldn’t be running, I should be lying in bed on this Sunday morning with a cup of coffee watching AFC Bournemouth thrash Doncaster Rovers 5 - 0 on the BBC’s, The Football League Show. My body feels hijacked; black dots plot a route across my eyeballs and brown mud speckles my shiny white 100% polyester zip up Fila tracksuit top. Grace completes the Bath ‘fun’ run in six minutes 55 seconds raising over £350 for the RUH Forever Friends appeal; I finish 5 seconds behind her, raising serious doubts about my mortality.

4th I receive a letter from HM Revenue & Customs; ‘Our records show that you have a new overdue Self Assessment tax payment’ [they’re not wrong]; ‘If you do not pay or contact us, we will take further action to force you to pay. We could visit your home to view your possessions and arrange for them to be sold at public auction.’ I have a look around the home at my possessions that could be sold at public auction, it could do with a bit of a de-clutter; there’s an old dehumidifier, unused electric heater, wonky chest of draws, redundant exercise weights and a framed Paul Reas print.

I read a report that regularly drinking alcohol can significantly increase the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer; I start applying a high SPF daily sunscreen.

5th In February the KTLA television anchor Sam Rubin, confused actor Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne; outrageous! (Five weeks from today, football referee Andre Marriner would send off Kieren Gibbs for a deliberate handball actually committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; disgraceful!) Today, I’m at White Cloth Gallery for their launch of a Slim Aarons and Gered Mankowitz exhibition, talking to who I assume is Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid, only to realise after lengthy dialogue that it is in fact Scottish photographer Colin McPherson; easily done.

6th In 2013, the publisher of my first photo monograph, England Uncensored, went into liquidation. I was one of the more fortunate photographers whose book got funded, printed, published and delivered to the people who backed it via the crowd funding online platform. Other photographers weren’t so fortunate, some had the pages of their book printed then left unbound at the printers; other funded books didn’t make it that far and the money ‘disappeared’. 604 of the 1000 printed copies of England Uncensored have been residing in limbo at a garage in the south of France. I manage to afford to buy back a 100 copies and make them available for direct sale via my blog. Checking the blog, there’s a comment from David Hussey advising on where I can get a good deal on a mortgage. I don’t want the first comment on the blog to advise on where I can get a good deal on a mortgage and delete it. Checking back a little later, there’s a comment from Anonymous;

‘Why would anyone want to buy this book when you could purchase a similarly "Rare" Martin Parr for slightly more money. The mind Boggles!’

And a comment  from Penelope Howard;

‘This is the same person who made a very unsavoury joke about flood victims losing their "second home" outside of London.

Most f (sic) the people who were affected in the recent devastating floods were not 2nd home owners but hard working people who have had their lives disrupted. For a photographer who proclaims to be part of a internationally known agency his comments were very short sighted. Personally speaking my mother who had their homes swamped during the floods I find this man a total cretin.’

And another very similar comment from Penelope Howard;

‘This is the same person who made a very unsavoury joke about flood victims losing their "second home" outside of London.

Most of the people who were affected in the recent devastating floods were not 2nd home owners but hard working people who have had their lives disrupted.

For a photographer who proclaims to be part of a internationally known agency his comments were very short sighted. My mother had home (sic) swamped during the floods and has been left in total awfulness.

Personally speaking I find this man a total cretin.’

And another comment from Penelope Howard;


I see you have made a link via your twitter feed about my view on your awful joke about flood victims. I see you highlighted my grammatically inferior first entry.

I was so bloody annoyed about what you said that my forgot my grammar (sic).

A friend of mine spotted your joke as I am not twitter person.

Quite frankly I think your joke was distasteful and very ill-conceived and NO I have not seen your book. Not interested.

As you can see I corrected my errors.’

I wish Davis Hussey would re-post his comment advising on where I can get a good deal on a mortgage.

7th Sat on my stool in Villiers Terrace on a Friday night around 8pm, a woman asks if I'm alone. I am alone and explain it was a choice between drinking alone or going to watch Lego, the movie. She suggests I shouldn't go and watch Lego the movie alone although everyone says its brilliant. I promise her I won't and she delivers a suggestive ‘don’t be alone’ double cheek kiss while resting her hand on mine. Arriving home I ask my wife and daughter if they enjoyed Lego, the movie? My wife says it was “Shit”.

I read a report that eating too much bread can significantly increase the chances of developing anaemia and osteoporosis; I stop eating bread.


20th I’ve a screening of my work at the Fotojatka [Photoslaughter] Festival in the Czech Republic and pack my bag for a return to the country that holds position number one in my top ten lifelong imbibing moments. I’ve mentioned this episode briefly in a previous Dench Diary, where, each year, on the anniversary of that trip, I meet the person who accompanied me and we whisper our shame. Only now has enough time passed that I feel can write down the developments of that day in Vlčnov, a village located in the Zlin Region of the Czech Republic, in the cultural region of Maravia. The population of the village is slightly over three thousand inhabitants. Vlčnov is well known for its traditional folklore festival The Ride of the Kings (Jízda králů) held every year at the end of May. It is now also well known for the visit of photographer Peter Dench and journalist Sean Thomas on assignment for Maxim magazine to report on the festival of Pomlázka. Pomlázka is the name given to whips made from willow rods that symbolises the male phallus. It is used to spank selected girls from the neighbourhood to bring them good luck and rid them of evil spirits. In recent years, the tradition had got out of hand with reports of marauding male hordes delivering over zealous spankings; Dench and Thomas were in town to investigate. We hooked up with a band of around half a dozen brothers who had a list of 22 women to receive the whip; at the top of the list was their old school maths teacher. At 8am, she opened her door and received a cautious probing of the sticks. Each whipping is rewarded with a painted egg or shot of Slivovitz, a 70% proof clear plum brandy; the group preferred Slivovitz to painted eggs. As the number of shots went up and the number of houses on the list down, I vaguely recall a young woman being thrown in the bath and another tossed in a lake; one woman hid up a tree and another ran wailing into the wood. At around 3pm, Thomas woke me up from a doze on the riverbank, my camera kit and passport scattered all around. “I can’t remember where we parked the car” he said; neither could I. Three hours, and a few bars later, we stumbled across it while silently trying to piece together events.
 Back home in a London pub with Thomas, looking hard through the Lupe at the contact sheets for evidence of a good job done, the last contact sheet offered up a surprise. Five of the 12 frames on it had been shot with the Mamiya 6 lens mount retracted rather than extended, which results in a blurred circle; in the middle of the circles, you can just about make out Thomas crawling around the grass on all fours being flogged. He raises his eyebrows and I raise my voice towards the barman; “Two pints of Peroni please, and have you a shot of Slivovitz?”

I read a report that having five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is no longer sufficient; I increase my daily portions to seven.


10th I have a set of photographs that I think would make a great second visual monograph and head out to begin what I expect to be a long and laborious task of trying to secure a publisher. Looking up from the edit laid out on a table in The Photographers’ Gallery London cafe, the publisher explains they’d be delighted to publish the set of photographs as a book and decide on Autumn 2014 as the target for its release.

I read a report that giving women oral satisfaction can significantly increase the risk of throat cancer.

A&E is published by The Bluecoat Press October  2014

A version of this feature first appeared in Issue 3 Volume 2 of Hungry Eye magazine available to buy here

A selection of Instagram prints are available to buy here