Wednesday, 5 March 2014

England Uncensored : The Book

Peter Dench : England Uncensored
Hardcover, 144 pages, 255 x 280 mm, closed format, landscape, 150 gsm GardaPad Kiara paper
The collectors edition [below] is numbered and includes a signed and numbered original print
ISBN: 978-1909076006 Journalism Experiences Ltd 2012

"England has never exactly been glamorous. Many of the English still insist on embarrassing themselves, wearing laughable clothing, eating terrible food and behaving inappropriately. Alcohol features prominently because, whether living it up at Henley Royal Regatta or at a hen's party in Blackpool, the nations favourite legal high is never far away. So many attending England's festivals, country house events, sporting fixtures, jollies and jamborees look disappointed and confused, as if they cannot quite understand why they are not having the marvellous time they were expecting or think they deserve.

England Uncensored documents the ordinary and the extraordinary. It explores all corners, from cities to tired beaches, via nightclubs, dressing rooms, cathedrals and famous sites in the country, such as Lord's cricket ground and Hampton Court Palace, as well as presenting some of England's more unusual events, e.g. the War and Peace Show in Beltring, Kent - the "largest military vehicle spectacular in the world" - where civilians can dress in military uniform and carry weapons, or the central London themed disco with adults dressing in school uniform to relive the "best days of their lives."

The publisher went into liquidation in 2013; I've managed to secure around 100 Standard Edition and a dozen Collectors Edition from the storage facility, the book is now officially rare! [I didn't procure any copies of William Daniels Faded Tulips, pictured right].

here's when Don McCullin dropped by my book signing in Arles

and when Jean-Francois Leroy dropped by at Visa pour l'Image

some examples of satisfied customers


and a few reviews courtesy of Jacket & Red

  1. England Uncensored

    By Mel Evans, 25/09/2012
    This has to be the best book I have bought this year. The moments caught are fantastic and look beautiful in colour.

  2.  A bright and bold view of England.

    By Chris Demott, 08/06/2012
    This is a beautifully printed journey through the quite often deliberately ignored side of England along with wonderful images of some amazing characters. At a time when all eyes are on us this really does give a jolting view of some remarkable events and people along with some other moments that would seem so alien to most but are captured so well and look so natural. The colours are bright and bold and the subjects are often even bolder. Ranging from charming, touching, shocking and hilarious to on occasion quite uncomfortable viewing England Uncensored really does offer a quite original view of some of this nations subjects. 

    Let me know if you want it signed or dedicated!

    [I'll do my best to deliver in 3-5 working days]

    Standard Edition £30 + P & P

    Collectors Edition £140 + P & P [less than 15 remain]

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Dench Diary : August - October 2013

August 2013

22nd The London Evening Standard newspaper publish a two page article about a commercial assignment I’m working on in collaboration with the media agency OMD. The Future of Britain initiative aims to build a comprehensive archive of what it’s like to live in modern Britain through fact finding and photography. In April I began to create a visual essay photographing in towns and cities and at events across the UK to document what I thought would reveal most about living in modern Britain; commuters, the high street, football matches, supermarkets, youths on street corners, caravan parks, modified car competitions, beauty pageants, women having a spray tan, war re-enactors, off licences and the pub. The photographs are uploaded to the website and blog. The public have been asked to get involved and suggest where I should go and what I should photograph; a digital poster campaign suggests ‘tweet Pete to come and take photographs in your area’. The Evening Standard distributes around 700,000 copies. As the issue hits the stands, I cork a Rioja Reserva 2008 Lagunilla, take a seat at my desk and wait for the avalanche of suggestions. One woman asks if I can photograph her dog at a show in Penge, another asks if I can photograph her sons under 14 rugby cup final and the Hampstead Photographic Society, call to see if I can give a presentation to it’s members. The Future of Britain is in my hands, well one hand, there’s a glass of wine in the other. I agree to one of the three suggestions.

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

26th As co-creative director at White Cloth Gallery, Leeds UK, it’s my task to asses and respond to the stream of exhibition submissions. If in the future, you would like to submit an exhibition proposal, please accept these general guidelines for success. Find out who to send your proposal to rather than a general ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern’ introduction; do not send half a dozen links and expect them to be edited into a coherent exhibition; try meeting the person who decides what to exhibit in person, generally exhibitions have a better chance of confirmation if you are known personally; have a look at previous exhibitions, take note of the quality, theme and content - if there’s no previous evidence of glamour, landscape or experimental photography, it is unlikely your submission will triumph. If you receive a reply along the lines of ‘Unfortunately the work isn't right for our current exhibition strategy’ you have not adhered to the above.

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images


2nd - 8th The photographer being restrained by waiters working at Le Grande Café de la Poste during the 2012 Visa pour l’Image festival of photojournalism breaks free and thunders his clenched fists towards me. Earlier, I’d passively extracted myself from the conversation at the table we were seated when he voiced a menacing dislike to my photographic style and representation of the English (the next occupant of the seat I’d vacated wasn’t so controlled and yanked him across the table thrusting his head repeatedly into the cracked slabs of the historic town square before the waiters intervened to suspend the melee). This time, I’ve no time to extract myself from the incoming outrage, quickly drop my left shoulder and take a glancing blow to the right side of the noggin. The man who has taken an enhanced dislike to my photographic style and representation of the English stoops past and is once again scrambled into restraint. The following afternoon, after unsolicited advice from the photographic community, the man who took a violent dislike to my photographic style and representation of the English fronts up for an apology; “I’m sorry, I was drunk, I don’t really remember what happened.”

A year on, at the 25th Visa pour l’Image festival of photojournalism, I reflect on the incident and post a tweet;

“Will xxxxxxx fists be making an appearance this year? #perpignan #2012highlight”

A response by email arrives;


Can you remove the tweet about me from your twitter account.
I don't know why you have written that. It's rather childish.

Maybe you should consider spending your spare time doing something more constructive.”

Maybe I should consider spending my spare time doing something more constructive and type a reply;

“Dear xxxx

Wielding your fists in my opinion is childish.

I have posted over 7000 tweets without complaint and don't intend to start editing them now.

I made the decision to remove your first name [from the tweet] and not to write an account of your actions in my memoirs which were published last week and available to purchase via my blog.

You must be accountable in life for your actions. If you had bruised my face with your idiotic behaviour it would have jeopardised my business in Perpignan at considerable personal cost.

I have considered your request for more time than you deserve; the tweet has been posted, you should move on to something more constructive.


I press send.


Just remove the tweet. There is no good reason for it to be there other than to spite and to cause offense and embarrassment. I apologised to all concerned about what happened last year and to you in person.

That should be considered me taking account of my actions.

Just do the decent thing and remove it, save any further embarrassment.”

I decide not to type a reply and receive an additional email.

“Clearly you are a very spiteful individual.

I was man enough to apologise to you for what happened last year but you thought it right and proper to reignite.

As for potentially ruining your business I find that very hard to believe. Mimicking another photographers style lacks authorship and creativity. Sorry to be so blunt.

I may lack your superior social skills but photography is about the work one produces
not self- obsessed pretentiousness.

Best of luck with the memoirs.”

I type a :-) and press send.

Sipping a beer back at Café de la Poste, I swill the memory around my mouth. Another keen photographer of the English approaches and jabs his finger in my shoulder. “Are we friends?” Jab. “Are we friends?” Jab jab. “I’ve heard you’re a nice guy, but are we friends?” Jab jab jab. I consider the question. Are we friends? I holiday with my friends; meet them for drinks and nibbles in the Villiers Terrace; telephone them for advice; look after their children and lust after their wives. In that context, the man with the over active digits and I are not friends. We’re not even Facebook friends; I’d recently ‘unfriended’ him as a reprieve from the excessive posting of their work on my timeline. I chuck back the rest of my beer, thud the glass on the table, stand up and give his back a cheery slap. “Of course we friends, what are you drinking?” 

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

10th Walking into the Hampstead Photographic Society (HPS) to give an evening talk, I bring the average age down significantly. I’m first substitute replacement for Vicki Couchman who had to pull out at short notice. The club chairman informs me that I was in fact second choice preferred replacement for Vicki Couchman. I grab a copy of the club programme and pour some water into an ‘A A Hampstead Living Sober’ mug and peruse: ‘May 06 - Photographers we like: Lord Snowdon and Hugh Diamond’. Oh dear. My fee for the evening is “a nice bottle of red wine”. I hope they present it before the talk and check in my bag that I brought my opener. I did and make a mental reminder to return on March 25th for: ‘An evening with Bob Slott - A chance to see Bob’s excellent images and hear how his Cape Cod club is run’. The HPS comedian and professional Chauffeur, plugs the computer into the newly acquired Epson projector (retailing at around £900), a picture of an otter flicks on to the screen. I explain that’s not one of my photographs, he seems surprised and continues to clip in wires and unclip others. I chat with Michael who looks after production of the newsletter. Michael wasn’t successful in this years Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize award but did have some success in the Isle of Wight festival. Retired psychologist, Richard, interjects and promises to post me his published paper on Dr Hugh Welch Diamond. I wrote my photographic degree dissertation on Dr Diamond and his use of photography in the treatment of nineteenth century female lunatics; it hasn’t proved useful in the development of my career. An Optometrist looks over and regales a tale of his adventure cruise to eastern Russia and his passion for photographing birds, but not as huddled groups or flocks, as individual birds. I took books to sell at the evening, on the return journey home, my bag is heavier than when I arrived.

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

13th I settle down in anticipation of the ‘nose to tail eating’ of a suckling pig in the private dining room of St. John’s, an English restaurant opened in October 1994 by Fergus Henderson, Trevor Gulliver and Jon Spiteri, on the premises of a former bacon smoke-house. Our host for the evening, reminds us not to photograph or tag any of the Jews, Muslims or ‘vegetarians’ in the room on social media before we all begin to tuck into the swine.

23rd Sat outside Villiers Terrace enjoying a late burst of summer sunshine, my daughters school class walk past on their way to a swimming lesson. I raise my glass of rosé wine and wave jovially at her; she doesn’t wave back.

24th “What’s in the packet?” the man behind the post office counter asks of the envelope destined for Australia. “My memoirs!” I reply enthusiastically. I’m sure I correctly hear his coughed response. “Dick”.


3rd Sitting down for lunch in the Groucho Club, London, with international thriller writer, Tom Knox, I order the tuna tartare to start and chicken paillard for the main course. After graduating from the University of Derby in 1995, I moved straight to London and looked for a venue to hang my degree show rather than store it in the tiny room I was renting in a shared flat. The Groucho Club had one and agreed to host the work for a two week period following Easter. Following Easter, I received a telephone call from the Groucho Club asking if I had invited anyone along to the evenings private view. I picked up the telephone and invited along my mate Craig and we jumped on the slow moving number 91 bus towards Soho. Walking into the Groucho’s exhibition room where my work was displayed, there was a buffet, a bar and two sartorially glorious barmaids. “What’s happening in here?” I asked. “It’s a private view for the photographer Peter Dench and the F***er hasn’t turned up.” I did what any self respecting photographer would do and denied my own existence “that’s outrageous” grabbed Craig and we flung ourselves among the throng jiggling about at the adjacent party where we pointed in awe at celebrities Chris Evans, Rory McGrath, Bill Nighy and Kate Moss. When I returned to collect my exhibition, there was one comment in the comments book; it read, “a bit nonplussed really”.

6th Walking into the Gamma Photo Forum, Shipley, Yorkshire, to give a morning talk, I bring the average age down significantly; they’ve promised to buy me lunch and I eagerly anticipate the early bird menu.

7th Walking into the Harrogate Photographic Society (HPS) to give an evening talk, I bring the average age down significantly, no wait! There is youth; pure, crisp, unsoiled, sweet-scented youth, courtesy of visiting 6th form students from St Aidan’s Church of England High School and Harrogate College. This is a good news; two recent meetings of the HPS began with the announcement of which members had died. I hope they all make it through my presentation, I hate interruptions.

A version of this article first appeared in  Vol: 2, Issue: 1 of Hungry Eye magazine available to buy here

Friday, 22 November 2013

Dench Diary : December 2012

September 2012

14th “You look smart for a photographer.” Why thank you deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. I’m shooting a reportage on the deputy PM for the FT Weekend magazine; it’s not going well. Clegg has sat on a train, stood on a stage, and now I have 10 minutes with him stood idle in a garden. For the occasion he’s chosen a suit with more creases in than an albino elephants knee and has the pallor to match.

16th For the London Festival of Photography (LFP) fundraising auction I donated a book, a print, and a portrait session; the lots raised over £700. The LFP has since gone bankrupt and I’ve been left out of pocket for payment due on a workshop. As a professional, I feel obliged to fulfill the portrait session and head to Raynes Park in South London. I photograph the man who has won me in an auction on his Harley Davison motorbike and playing football with his 18-month old son; I photograph him blowing bubbles with his son and pushing him on the swings in the park; after the shoot we head to the pub where the son of the man who has won me in an auction urinates all over his shirt.

24th It’s been 17 years since I graduated from the University of Derby with a first class BA (Hons) degree in Photographic Studies. In that time I haven’t heard a post-grad peep; surely I must be one of their more successful alumni? In a bold attempt at recognition, I write to the Dean; a lecture theatre named Dench perhaps? I’m offered a position as associate lecturer. I can’t commit to this but agree to deliver a five-hour workshop on crowd funding. Arriving in Derby the rain is thick; I check my bank account to see if the €10 note I’d dropped in over the weekend has cleared; it has not. After a 20-minute slosh through the familiar city, I arrive at the Markeaten Road Campus looking like I’ve wet myself; It’s not the ‘return in triumph’ I imagined. The workshop goes well and the students are responsive. I’m two hours early for my pre-booked return train to London and check my bank account to see if the €10 I’d dropped in over the weekend has cleared; it has not. I trade the £8 that is in the account for five bottles of cider and two bags of novelty crisps, find a place to picnic in the strip-lit station and watch customers come and go at Bubbles Massage and Spa - providing students with a first class finish for over 15 years.


1st Sat in the Villiers Terrace flicking through The Sun newspaper, I stop to admire the DD’s; Dear Deidre’s letters problem page. Ten years ago, I asked photographer Marcus Bleasdale -who had a contact at the paper - if he could get me a part in Dear Deidre’s photo casebook (a photo sequence of a daily drama) Not good looking enough to play the hunk, I craved the role as Cuckolded man stood shocked in the doorway of his fiancée’s bedroom as she is unfaithful. Assignments got in the way, and the photo casebook idea faded. It’s time to give my DD debut another try. Welcome to the Dear Deidre section of The Dench Diary...

Dear Deidre
I wet the bed until I reached puberty then suffered from premature ejaculation; it seems fluids didn't want to stay in my body for long.
 The only way I could last at making love was to have a few drinks beforehand, but then I often have had difficulty maintaining an erection.
 I've just met a woman I think I'm in love with, and am worried she may discover my inadequacies and leave me. Help!

Hi Peter,
Thanks for emailing.  I'm glad you got in touch and I hope I can help you.
 I'm sorry you are worried about not lasting very long.  This is one of the most common worries men write to me about but it is also one of the most easily put right.  I am attaching my leaflet about lasting longer, which has self-help steps to help you sort it out.
 Don't rely on alcohol because as you've discovered, it can only lead to further problems.
 I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know how you get on and do get in touch again if I can be of any further help.
All the best

Dear Deidre
Thanks for your quick reply, which I suppose is appropriate considering my problem HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  I was hoping I could trouble you with another.
 I was so surprised at how aroused I became looking at an advert of an elderly woman riding a Stannah Stairlift, that I volunteered to work in an old peoples home.
 I'm in my late 30's and known I've always liked older women, but I didn't realise just HOW old! I'm worried I might compromise my position by making advances.
 Is it illegal to date a woman 50 years your senior?
Kind Regards

PS. I would love to appear in Deidre's photo casebook, I think I'd make an excellent; cuckolded man stood shocked in the doorway of his fiancée’s bedroom as she is unfaithful.

Hi Pete

Thanks for emailing.  If this situation is as you say then I can understand your concerns.  I suggest you talk it through with someone sympathetic, outside the situation and I am attaching my leaflet Need Someone To Talk To. I hope you find it helpful.
 With regard to appearing in the casebook yourself, all the models that appear in the casebook are registered and are chosen by the agency Needham and Hanson. I suggest you write to Needham and Hanson
All the best

I check the models on the Needham and Hanson website; I wouldn’t even make the shocked father of the cuckolded man stood shocked in the doorway of his fiancée’s bedroom as she is unfaithful.

4th I’ve brushed my tongue and combed my hair and head over to White Cloth Gallery Leeds (UK) for the launch of photographer Ewen Spencer’s exhibition; England’s Dreaming. Taking a short cut through Leeds railway station I pull my camera out to add a few snaps to a project I’m gathering on commuters; it’s a dense denier affair. There are ripped tights; tall tights; striped tights; too tight tights; the right tights and bright tights. On arrival at the gallery, I ask Ewen to sign his book on the White Stripes.

10th I give a talk to the prestigious Muswell Hill Photographic Society (there is a two month waiting list) and get paid a handsome £50.

11th Attend the opening of Tom Wood’s exhibition Men and Women at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Tom mentions Martin Parr can’t attend as he’s giving a talk to a northern camera club for a fee of £950. I consider sending Martin my fee from the Muswell Hill Photographic Society to round it up to £1,000.

19th - 21st The rail replacement bus ride to Destination Star Trek London, the first official live event in the UK in a decade, hosted at the Excel Centre, is a bumpy one; I Klingon. I’m on assignment to shoot a three-day reportage of the event for a Sunday newspaper supplement. The mostly tubby-trekkies don’t exude the ‘live long and prosper’ philosophy Spock would be proud of. Expectations are cosmic; the selling point for the event is all five television captains are to appear together: William Shatner, Sir Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula. At the press call to snap this unique occasion, Stewart refuses to materialize.


3rd I’m stood on a corner of Union Street in Plymouth where I photographed a man collapsed in the gutter over a decade ago. I was immersed in a long-term project documenting the drinking habits of the English. Union Street was then regarded as one of the most violent streets in the UK. I’d taken the train down the week before and only managed to shoot one frame before retreating, scared, back to London. I called Plymouth Police, explained what I was trying to achieve, and returned to photograph alongside them out on patrol. Documenting Union Street resembled a ballet penned by the devil; horny hoards would exit the pubs around 11pm to fight, fondle and puke, then head into the clubs and do it all again on departure around 2am. Today, Union Street is desolate; Jesters, The Boulevard & Millenium Discotheque are now closed. Choo Choo’s, home of the Vodka Jelly’s, once open until 6am, is closed; the £1 shop, Gentlemen’s Club & Ali Babas 40 Dishes, are open. The Malthouse, New Palace Theatre & The Phoenix, are closed. Aldi’s, Feneck’s Tailors & the Hair Port are open. As I document the decay, a man carrying a guitar case walks past and spits by my shoe; there is blood in the spit.

12th I’m about to give a presentation to second and third-year students on the BA photography degree course at the London College of Communication. I assume the role of Tom Cruise in Magnolia and imagine the confidence I will thrust on their expectant minds. British Gas call to demand payment on an outstanding amount and suggest I install a pay-as-you-go meter; I shuffle in to the classroom.

15th HOST Gallery, the self-appointed home of photojournalism and home of Foto8, is to close. With nostalgia and regret, I attend the gallery’s final opening and Foto8 office contents sale. The bin is on sale for £1; I check inside to see if it includes my rejected exhibition submissions.

21st I hear a report on the news that liver disease is on the rise due to the increase in people drinking at home; I resolve to do most of my drinking down the pub.


14th I’m on en route to Lapland to meet the real Santa Claus. On a five-hour stop over at Helsinki airport I fail to blag complimentary press access to the One World alliance lounge and its grotto of free booze. A glass of wine at the airport is €8.... Fifty-six euros later I’m about to board the flight to Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa. Families with chidlren board first; I board last and buckle up in my Busininess Claus seat. Arriving at the Santa Claus hotel, crying kids, tired kids and kids high on sugar bounce around the bar; I order a double Finlandia vodka and check my itinerary for the trip organised by the Lappish tourist board: ‘Visit to market days: Unique Arctic handicrafts at Arktikum’. I finger the baggage tag on my luggage, it has the Helsinki airport code printed in bold: HEL

16th I meet the real Santa; he’s a lot fatter in real life. Santa’s concerned digital files taken today will not survive in 30 years. I hand over the hand-written letter from my daughter and add that she’d also like a Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo 6TB Desktop External Dual Drive Storage System with RAID. Back at the Santa Claus hotel, I read plans for the evening and the plans are for dinner at Nili, one of Finland’s finest restaurants. In anticipation of the Lappish feast I peruse the online menu and prepare my pallette for the bear meatballs, potato puree, oven baked root vegetables, black currant jelly and unripened cheese pepper sauce washed down with a bottle of sparkling cloudberry wine. On arrival at Nili, the waitress informs the Lappish tourist board have ordered on my behalf and I’m restricted to two glasses of wine; red or white. I’m not much of a pudding man and ask if I can exchange my baked apple for an extra glass of red; I am informed I cannot.

24th My tears taste of cider so I decide to stay in bed and cry all day.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Shot by Kern : Book Review

At the turn of the millennium, I found myself packing lightly for an eight day assignment for Men’s Health magazine. The commission was to produce a photographic reportage on the health benefits of naturism. I was excited. I was nervous. Would I get an unwanted, you know? Would the residents, you know, be bigger? Arriving at the Desert Shadows nudist resort in Palm Springs, California, I knocked on the door of the apartment I was to share with the writer Benjamin Mee (on whose life, the 2011 film, We Bought a Zoo, is based). I’d never met Benjamin before: “Hello, I’m Peter Dench,” I said, eyes flicking to his satisfyingly covered groin. “Hello, I’m Benjamin Mee.” We immediately established a strict clothes must be worn inside the apartment rule, and a strict, clothes must not be worn outside of the apartment rule, and set off to work, giddy at the prospect of a week probing the world of the naked and nearly naked. On the sixth day, Benjamin and I had had enough, and crept out of the resort and in to the local town bars in search of nipple against cloth and bum bulging denim. The daily role call of nakedness at Desert Shadows had sedated our libido.

It’s with a similar feeling of reprieve, that I reach page 278 of the Taschen book publishing title, Shot by Kern, by Richard Kern. “Would you like to review the new book by Richard Kern for Hungry Eye magazine?” I had been asked. “Yes I would” I replied. I’d not heard of Richard Kern, and idly tapped his name into Google. I ought to have first cleared the room of my family. If you like photographs of pretty girls (I do), you should have heard of Richard Kern. If you like photographs of pretty girls in underpants (I do do), then you should definitely have heard of Richard Kern. 

I immediately put in a request with the Taschen publishing relations manager to spend a day accompanying Kern on a shoot, to witness first hand the motivation of the man behind the lens; this was not possible. “How about an in person interview?” He wasn’t due in the UK any time soon. “How about a telephone or Skype chat?” Nope. A list of sample questions were requested. Kern would then make a decision on whether to reveal his answers personally.

According to his Wikipedia page, Kern is: ‘A New York underground filmmaker, writer and photographer. He first came to underground prominence as part of the underground cultural explosion in the East Village of New York City in the 1980s, with erotic and experimental films featuring underground personalities of the time.’

Sample question number one to Richard Kern. “Do you still consider yourself, and your work, underground?”

The book I ordered from Amazon arrived in a large brown box. As a result of ordering the book from Amazon, Peter Dench’s featured recommendations, along with children’s books and moth traps, now includes books by Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, Guy Bourdin and Pussy Girls: Totally Unshaven & Natural Bushes by Walter Bosque. Making sure, this time, the apartment is clear of family, friends, the vulnerable, the easily offended and infirm, I run a scalpel down the packing tape and open. Two fresh faced girls peek out from the water along with a single unblinking nipple. I slide my hand across the wipeable cover and flip the girls over. On the reverse, two girls in knickers and bra play with another girls head hair. The wraparound cover can be fingered off, so I do, revealing an up-skirt shot of a girl wearing a blue dress and no panties. Her glistening labia is pressed firmly into the books spine. Delicately lifting back the front cover, the first image of the book is the books' author, a 50-something Kern is pictured lying on a tiled floor, holding a reflector and looking up between a girls legs. 

©Richard Kern

What follows is turned after turned page of photographs of naked or semi-naked girls*. Girls brush their teeth. Girls brush each others teeth. Girls lie on the floor wearing knickers. Girls lie on the floor without wearing knickers. They lie on the stairs, on tables and stand on their heads. There are girls in the shower, in the bath and naked in the snow. There are girls on the toilet, on the bed and on all fours. There are girls holding bowls of fruit, one holds a guitar, another holds a condom. One girl reads a book, one puts clothes in a washing machine, two girls put their head in the oven. There’s a sequence of girls holding prescription medicine and another of girls with their own personal technology. Girls kiss, they yawn, they cry. Two run together topless on the beach, others squat alone in the wood. Girls in knickers smoke pot. Girls in knickers jump up and down. Girls wearing knickers bend over looking back through their legs and girls with no knickers on bend over looking back through their legs. One girls does yoga, another has a cup of tea. There’s a girl with a thermometer stuck up her ass and one stuck in her mouth, she looks well. Then page 278, the reprieve; two fully clothed girls hold hands, one swigs alcohol from a bottle. I breathlessly mirror her act.

The girls in Shot by Kern are freshly scrubbed and the style of photography is refreshingly natural. The photographs deliver in detail colour pants of all shades and sheer. Girls flow across the pages with red hair, brown hair, blonde hair and black hair, but only one or two has determinatively black skin. The 300 or so images in the book were shot by Kern over seven years, the result of traveling extensively across Europe via Canada, Mexico and the United States in search of real girls in real settings. That’s a lot of girls. They say as a man, you get into photography for two reasons; because you’re in to cameras and kit, or you’re in to women.

Sample question number two to Richard Kern. “Are you in to cameras and kit?”

You get a DVD with the book.  It’s glued rather haphazardly in cheap tight plastic to the inside of the back cover. I think they’ve missed a trick not having it hung behind a soft, stretched fine denier sheath that you can rip open. The innocuous looking DVD, edited by Kern and G. Blackshire, featuring original music by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, the band with whom Kern has had an association with since the 1980’s, is a little disappointing. The expectations roused by the Adult Viewing Only warning, then the THIS DVD CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT WARNING, then the FBI Warning, aren’t appeased. It’s basically an animated version of the book. I’d prefer a best of the Benny Hill TV show compilation DVD. The end of DVD Extra, is five minutes of white gloop, one must assume is soap, being liberally squirted on girls that they then rub over their nubile form. For the climax Extra Extra, a girl in the Czech Republic does some star jumps in her white knickers with her knockers out.

©Richard Kern

The Shot by Kern collection of 25 minute videos at Vice are more advisable viewing. Videos where the girls have a voice, share anecdotes and show attitude, and where Kern, explains in a low level matter of fact manner, what is required on the shoots and what inspires his desire to continue taking these type of photographs.

Sample question number three to Richard Kern. “You turn 60 next year, will you stop photographing girls in pants?”

I think I already know the answer. It’s not surprising Kern wants sample questions before exerting his energy answering them, he’s a busy man. Perhaps he thinks he’s been asked them all before and is bored of having to answer them. Perhaps I’m completely wrong.

Kern’s photographs are more innocent than insulting and more underwear than underground. They echo an age before the sate-any-appetite eruption of the internet, an age of innocence when Kern was just a boy. They prick the urge for a return to purity, when the simple act of a girl with her breasts out, and her head in the oven, is enough to titillate the retina.

I stick back the DVD, pull up a chair, and thrust the 23.5cm x 31cm x 3cm book onto the top shelf where it rests beside another banished-from-family-fingers Taschen titan; America Swings by Naomi Harris (not the actress). Shot by Kern, with an introduction by Jesse Pearson, was first published on my 41st birthday. It’s a book I would have liked to have photographed as a young man, and a book I would have liked to have viewed as an adolescent.

*Disclaimer - At the time of writing, all the girls mentioned in this review are understood to be aged 18 years or over. Probably.

A version of this feature first appeared in Issue 12  Volume I of Hungry Eye available to buy here

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

In Conversation With Tom Stoddart

Photojournalist Tom Stoddart hands me his Leica M6. It’s the first Leica I’ve held, and cautiously raise the viewfinder eye level: “Wow Tom, everything looks amazing!” “Not everything Peter, not everything . . . ” his soft Geordie accent trails off. I hand back the Leica, the same Leica that has captured on film some of the most devastatingly powerful and informative images of a generation. If a picture is worth a thousand words, Stoddart’s photographic opus, iWITNESS, is the Encyclopedia Britannica: Tears of anguish scupper the cheeks of a mother as she prepares to send her confused child out of Sarajevo, 1992; A well nourished Sudanese man steals maize from a starving child, 1998; A man emaciated and weak from HIV is helped into a bath, Zambia, 2000; An old woman sits stoically still, waiting for aid to arrive in an earthquake ravaged village near Anjar, India, 2001. Page after turned page show starving people, lost people, people in physical pain, grieving people, innocent people, trapped and battered people, people decimated by disease, dead people. Among the 350+ pages of pictures, there is also hope, and laughter, and life: A child plays with pigeons among the ruins of an earthquake, India, 2001; A Bosnian muslim girl studies the Koran by candlelight during the siege of Sarajevo, 1994; New Yorkers return on the first Staten Island ferry back to Manhattan after the World Trade Centre attack, 2001.

Over a decade after I looked through his Leica, I’m off to meet Stoddart for breakfast and a catch up at his flat, situated behind the old News International site in Wapping, East  London. Arriving in London in the mid 1990s, I would visit the offices of News International regularly, knocking on doors to try and get my foot in one; it’s been so long since my last visit, on the short, cold, collar up walk from Tower Hill underground station, I get lost.  The Docklands Light Railway arcs over unfamiliar blue cycle paths; blue-in-the-face joggers buffer me past the Artful Dodger pub; churches squat next to building trade suppliers. Secrets Table Dancing Club provides a familiar landmark (but don’t tell anyone), I writhe between the lorries thundering their cargo along East Smithfield, the Shard clearly seen dominating the sky to the west, through the elephant guarded gates of St. Katherine Docks, waft past the myriad eateries, and arrive at my destination.

©Tom Stoddart/Reportage by Getty Images

A tanned Tom answers, a legacy of the St. Lucia sunshine under which he recently relaxed with his partner Ailsa, sipping cocktails and reading Bourne books. As Tom teabags his Newcastle United mug, I take a tour of his castle; a teddy bear swings from a wind chime, a signed hat from golfer Greg ‘The Shark’ Norman, hangs from a knob in Tom’s bedroom. Plants wither, DVD cases from the IT Crowd, The Inbetweeners, Bad Santa and Blackwatch, A Soldiers Story, are shed beneath the giant flatscreen TV broadcasting live from Westminster. I relieve my bladder in front of a smiling picture of Diana Princess of Wales leant atop the toilet, give her a squirt of relaxing lavender Febreze air conditioner, head into the kitchen and present Tom with the Gewurztraminer white wine I grabbed en route from Waitrose supermarket around the corner - ‘Full bodied and very spicy with a dry finish’ seemed appropriate for the host. It clinks easily in the fridge next to the two bottles of Newcastle Brown lager and myriad rolls of HP5 35mm, 120 Portra *exceptional for skin tones* and Tri-X film.

I’m here to talk with Tom in preparation for his October 2013 exhibition at White Cloth Gallery, Leeds, UK for which I am Co-Creative Director. The exhibition is an edit from his 2012 visual behemoth, Perspectives, 78 of his signature B&W images were displayed outside City Hall, the Mayor of London’s office, on the South Bank of the River Thames. During the 49-day show, over a quarter of a million visitors are estimated to have witnessed the large scale, en plein air prints, many of whom were in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A Perspectives YouTube page is testimony to some of these visitors, visitors who came from Sarajevo and France,  Australia and Mexico, Bulgaria and Spain, South Africa and South London and many places in between. Young German art students fidget, giggle and gaze at the ground as they try to articulate what they’ve seen. An overwhelmed elderly New Zealand women weeps from beneath a purple hat. A Mostar citizen is positively surprised by the show, and a dreadlocked man from the charity, Kids Company, solemnly describes the ‘awakening’ that the exhibition provides. Success for Tom is judged by these public declarations. “The best feeling was to be unrecognizable among the work and listen to the mostly positive comments. Photojournalism is about, LOOK AT THIS, art photography is about, LOOK AT ME. I want to show people things that they thought they knew about.”  Tom had to raise around £50,000 for Perspectives - the Arts Council and similar institutions weren’t interested; “You have to be in Magnum Photos, or dead, or preferably both. UK snappers are generally treated with disdain by the establishment, as a feral bunch unworthy of funding.”

©Tom Stoddart/Reportage by Getty Images

Tom bounces from the spotted cushions dotted across his sofa and pulls down half a dozen full comments books from the 2004 retrospective photographic exhibition iWITNESS hosted at the same south Thames location. He reads out some of the comments, and points at one that’s simply the drawing of an angel crying. It’s clear he believes they are an affirmation that what he does is valid, that his work does have an effect on people. It does, one comment advises: Shit happens, get over it. When I took my daughter Grace to see Perspectives, then aged seven years old, she gave her own affirmation; “I think I understand why other children want to live in England, Daddy”.

When students come to visit Tom, he shows them Inferno, by James Nachtwey - ”The only true living genius working as a photojournalist today.” (Tom stood next to Nachtwey as he snapped some of the images in the book, images he says “defy belief”). Then he shows them Elliot Erwitt’s book, Snaps.  He looks into the eyes of those visiting students to asses if they understand the impact the “broad church of photography” can have. From the scores of aspiring photojournalists he’s advised and mentored, he can only really admit to believing at the time, that two had the potential to succeed, and in those two predictions, he has been proved to be right: Marcus Bleasdale and Leonie Hampton (née Purchas).

In Tom’s office, awards tumble from the cupboard; he’s proud of his Larry Burrows Award from the Eddie Adams Workshop for outstanding photojournalism, he thinks Larry Burrows’ 1966 colour photograph of wounded marine gunnery Sgt Jeremiah Purdie reaching towards a stricken comrade is one of the greatest photographs ever taken. Press passes twine together on hooks and stacked folders tower 6ft high. As the screen of his 27-inch iMac computer is touched into focus, an image of Margaret Thatcher appears, peering at the press through binoculars during a 1985 election campaign photo call; the hair on my neck bristles to attention. It’s a shot from his series Britons, a series he couldn’t sustain interest in. The anticlimax came as he parked the van in which he was touring the UK, under the Humber bridge, a location which he found out to be a popular spot for public sex known as ‘Dogging’.

It’s now time to be led, where I knew this day would lead: to the pub. Waiting for the lift on the third floor, we gaze across the former site of News International where Tom was twice a contract photographer. The newsroom is now a marketing suite for the businesses, shops and luxury homes that will take until Tom is 70 years old to build (he turns 60 in November 2013). The old newsroom wiring protrudes from the floor,; front-page classics from The Sun newspaper tout their history: ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’, ‘GOTCHA’ and ‘George Michael Shunts Trucker In Rear’. Weeds obscure the parking spaces of newspaper management now facing infamy in the courts; the scene is a publishing Marie-Celeste. 

©Tom Stoddart/Reportage by Getty Images

News International has moved on, and after 20 years living in Wapping, it is time for Tom to move on too, or back, back to his beloved North East of England. His new Northumberland home is six miles north of Newcastle, one mile from the airport, four from Hadrian’s Wall, 10 from where he was born, and most importantly, half a mile from the home of his footballing hero, Alan Shearer, who he observes from time to time enjoying a Peroni in the local pub. Born in Morpeth, the son of a farm worker, young Tom’s morals were instilled by his mother and the headmaster at the mixed comprehensive school in the fishing village of Seahouses, where he rose to be head boy. From school, most his peers said Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and went off to build a life rebuilding Germany. Tom, however, spied an advertisement in the Berwick Advertiser for a photographer. Only having really achieved in English at school, a 17-year old Tom saw this as a platform to being a reporter and successfully applied - success more down to having just passed his driving test than any photographic portfolio. After day two, and an assignment photographing on location at a Women’s Institute party, he knew photography was for him, not a life hammered out behind the typewriter.

Settling in a window seat of the curiously named, Town of Ramsgate pub, where convicts destined for transportation to the colonies were held in the cellar, Tom rests his new Leica Monochrome (it only shoots black and white) next to his pint of real ale, fixes me with his translucent blue eyes, haloed with a white ring - a hereditary condition from his mothers side, and explains the hardest thing to do as a photographer is to “keep swinging your legs out of bed”. This isn’t a reference to one of his legs being one and a half inches shorter than the other, a result of a serious injury sustained in heavy fighting around the Bosnian Parliament buildings, Sarajevo, during the civil war that was engulfing Yugoslavia, an injury that also saw his shoulder fitted with a titanium plate. In his 42nd year as a photographer, long term projects are over for Tom, he wants a very simple life, shooting short, sharp, 30-picture features.

We leave the oldest pub on the river Thames, pass the oldest riverside police station in the world, and thrust ourselves into seats at Italian restaurant Il Bordello, where the oldest-looking waiters in the world hand us menus. Peering at Tom through the glory hole of the menus ‘O’, he flourishes an order for a Torreon of Paredes Chardonnay and calamari with a side order of green beans and red pepper, a confident few decades on from when his mentor, chief photographer at the Daily Express, John Downing, quietly advised the Fleet Street newbie struggling to interpret another Italian restaurants menu, that perhaps the sirloin steak would be preferred to tartare.

In between Chilean slurps and fishy burps, he tells tales of ‘appropriating’ Saddam Hussain’s gold toilet roll and towel holder from Saddam’s Basra Palace, and swapping it with Martin Parr for a Parr print of a woman sunbathing next to a construction site vehicle, from the book, The Last Resort; he regales a tale of Bruce Davidson refusing to sign a book at the Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane, held in Davidson’s honour; and he admits to having just written a Will (but refuses to say if I’m in it). Tom finishes the meal jabbing at pictures on his phone of cat Albert, a crashed airplane in South Sudan, South Sudanese toilets and his convertible silver Porsche.

While other photographers from his generation have ceased working, or ease their passage into old age educating the young, Tom has no intention to stop shooting. Working closely with Reportage by Getty Images, where Tom (and I), are fully represented photographers, he remains focused, and hungry to create a visual legacy. Will he be remembered by history? Through his exhibitions and collections he hopes he will (Stoddart’s work from Sarajevo is in The Imperial War Museum archive). After an amaretto, and a bottle of Pinto Grigio at Cape Bar, we say goodbye; Tom strides home coughing away the cruel crisp night, I stumble and sneeze my way back to Tower Hill.

Returning home and checking my emails, Tom has sent a link to an article written by Times journalist, Anthony Loyd, about the war photographer, Don McCullin: ‘This, in my opinion, is the best article written about a photographer, ever!’ No pressure then. I decide not to read it and read on through the email: ‘Pete, there’s no such thing as a guardian angel. There’s stupidity, experience, and luck, and I got lucky, very very early.’ I flex my hands, type up my notes, and feel very, very lucky to have met him.

A selection from Tom Stoddart's Perspectives will be exhibited at White Cloth Gallery from the 3rd October 2013 - join Tom, and special guests, Miniclick, for a unique evening on the 2nd October; tickets are available here

A version of this feature first appeared in issue #11 of Hungry Eye magazine.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Dench Diary Paperback Book

Hello! I'm Afraid the 1st Edition has 

The United Nations of Photography, in association with Peter Dench, bring you the publishing sensation of the decade. Probably.

The diary of a sometimes working professional photographer

A book critics have described as "Alright",
and by Dench's mother as "Heaping shame upon the family name".

The award-winning English photojournalist brings us a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of his life as a professional photographer. Strap yourself in, it's a rocky ride.

113 pages, 9 in full colour, all of them in high-defenition Dench

Prepare to be astonished at the cover that challenges publishing convention

The numbered edition of 250 each come with a signed beer mat

International Thriller Writer Tom Knox says;

"It has been my great privilege to appear in these witty, wry, insightful diaries almost as many times as the words 'vodka', and 'Pinot Grigio'. A delightfully inebriated triumph."

A5 Digitally printed 
113 pages printed in high quality
Perfect bound
250gsm white matt covers printed full colour outside
B&W inside with no laminate 90gsm off white (recycled) 

£6.99 + £2.50 P&P.

Alternatively, 2 glasses of house red and a bowl of nuts at Villiers Terrace


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Cafe Royal Books & The British Abroad

Cafe Royal Books

There are very few doing so much to promote the work of British photographers as Craig Atkinson at CRB books. I am delight to join the portfolio of published artists with the release of Suited and Booted.

And here's a related book release mouth2mouth interview I gave to respected Creative Director, Pedro Silmon.

The British Abroad

This year I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Photoreporter Festival to shoot a new project on the British abroad; the work will premier at the festival in October. During June I visited: Ayia Napa, Cyprus; Sunny Beach, Bulgaria; San Antonio, Ibiza and Magaluf, Majorca in search of the thirsty Brit abroad. The images are embargoed until after the festival, I think you'll like them. In the interim, hers a video postcard from the trip;

Dench Abroad 2013
from Peter Dench on Vimeo.