Sunday, 7 January 2018

In Conversation With Laura Pannack

Laura Pannack likes to walk. Disembarking the train from London Fenchurch Street at Southend Central, we walk west along Southend-on-Sea promenade and we walk east along Southend promenade. We walk through what Laura calls a “savagely disappointing residential area” and among savage looking bare-chested young men walking their dogs along Southend High Street. We walk past families in matching pink tops eating Jammie Dodger biscuits and dodge among myriad wheelchairs bearing their wheezy occupants. We walk to Southend Pier and we walk along Southend Pier; extending 1.34 miles (2.16 km) into the Thames Estuary, it is the longest pleasure pier in the world. It is also the most savagely disappointing pier in the world. You have to pay to step onto Southend Pier but can’t step onto it with your pet dog. There is no bandstand at the end of Southend Pier; no arcade at the end of Southend pier; no overpriced rides; no teenage girls being fingered, not even a head-through-the-hole amusing photo opportunity. You can, however, ‘adopt a plank’ on Southend Pier. We stop walking and board a train for the return 1.34 miles; there is no buffet bar on the train.


I had heard about Laura Pannack well before I first met Laura Pannack; they were tales of a ferociously determined young photographer. I first clapped eyes on Pannack at the 2011 Visa Pour l’Image International Festival of Photojournalism hosted annually in the town of Perpignan, France. A colleague I was sat with at the popular Café de la Poste flicked a finger over my shoulder flecking me with remnants of his croque monsieur: “Laura Pannack’s arrived, it’s officially a festival.” The hairs on my neck prickled to attention as I spun around. “Where!? Behind the sweet-petite-tousled haired brunette with neat eyebrows and glowing skin, wearing dark shorts, sunglasses, cute white cardigan and holding a black shoulder bag?” I inquired. “IT IS THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CARDIGAN!!!” I swivelled around and retreated into my Aperol Spritz.



Laura Pannack likes to talk. To be fair, she asks better questions than I do but, to be fair, I’m too tired to talk after all the walking and I’m carrying half her kit on account of her arm being broken while roller-blading on her birthday. She talks of originally wanting to be a conflict photographer after watching the James Nachtwey film War Photographer on DVD. She talks of being elated after meeting famed photographer Eugene Richards in Amsterdam and deflated by another when they refused her access to shadow them on a photoshoot. She talks of getting her face painted as a tiger with her then-partner on her last visit to Southend. She talks of trauma and protecting herself from pain by surrounding herself with people she can trust. She talks of influential photographers Sally Mann, Esther Teichmann, Joakim Eskildsen, Gregory Crewsdon, Man Ray and her mentor Simon Roberts.

She talks about her South African-born father, the photographer Paul Pannack, (also a keen rock climber and martial arts enthusiast), who counted Duffy among his friends and shared a darkroom with David Bailey. The young Pannack used to enthusiastically tip trays in her father’s darkroom at the bottom of the garden and spent many adventurous weekends hanging out with him in eclectic studios. Pannack was seven years old when her father split with her Jewish mother. Born in Surrey–  “an isolated bubble of nothingness” – Pannack attended Tolworth Girls’ School where the often cruel playground environment stiffened her resolve to succeed. Like many young families, family Pannack occasionally struggled and struggled through; if payday was still a few days away, she would be served ‘mother’s surprise’ to eat, a boiled egg wrapped in minced meat with a side serving of an “amazing tomato sauce.” When there was no mother’s surprise, she was taken with her younger sister to munch on corn cobs at Garson farm, falling sick after one visit when she ate a whole cucumber and on another, after consuming too many gooseberries. 

Dench photographed on Southend Pier by Pannack using Polaroid.

Laura Pannack likes to take pictures. As we probe the streets of Southend, Pannack drops from my vision with the efficiency of Fenella Fellorick the Kettle Witch, popping up amongst the mobility scooters that crisscross this seaside Wheelie World, returning with a subject for her lens. She coaxes over red-haired Alex to be photographed – she’s wearing a red hooded top – and asks me to step in and face Alex: “Closer.” Alex smells Body Shop-scrubbed (I think it’s dewberry juice). “Closer.” Alex is listening to energetic youth music on her iPod. “Closer.” Alex has a pimple on her left ear, CLICK! Two Justin Bieber look-a-likes (Beliebers?) look on with amusement. Being photographed by Pannack I feel vulnerable, alone, manipulated yet strangely compliant. Alex calmly departs without seeking an explanation of what has just transpired or receiving one although generally Pannack likes to chat with her subjects and thinks it selfish not to. On Southend seafront, Pannack pings taut and moves towards another red-haired girl (perhaps she is hoping to nail her next Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize submission). Grace is a soft skinned, plump, sulky-looking teenager wearing a light pink playsuit and clutching a mobile phone. I don’t know what Pannack says when approaching her but I’m sure it’s said in a way that only Pannack can say it; the pink play-suited teenager, hoping to study for a BTECH National Diploma in Science, playfully swings her left foot as the Kodak Portra 160 reels steadily forward through Pannack’s Hasselblad.



We pause for more talk over lunch at the Waterfront Cafe that has no view of the water; Pannack winkingly manoeuvres the salt shaker in front of me and suggests a portrait. She can’t remember the last time she took a picture she liked but her pictures have been liked enough to take her far. She has shot for the Guardian, Sunday Times and Telegraph magazines among many others; won and been shortlisted for several awards including The Sony World Photography Awards, The Magenta foundation and Lucies IPA. She was recently awarded the Vic Odden by The Royal Photographic Society for ‘a notable achievement in the art of photography by a British photographer aged 35 or under’; she has many years left to be notable again. In 2009, Pannack received first prize in the Portrait Singles category of the World Press Photo awards for a portrait of recovering anorexic, Graham. Graham was photographed using natural light against a light blue wall in his bedroom, the winning shutter-shot deployed during a shared moment of silence as Graham reflected on his illness. It’s this shared emotion of silence that is key to Pannack’s most successful photographs and projects (that or the deployment of a salt shaker in many of her photographs, overridingly though, I think it’s the shared emotion of silence). Young British Naturists, Young Love, The Walks… all of these projects are deafeningly silent but have taken a lot of chatter to achieve. Her current project on a tight-knit community is around three years in the making, averaging just over one picture a year. Pannack is undeterred, a firm believer that “time, trust and understanding is the key to portraying subjects truthfully.”


Waiting for the return train home, I crack open a can of Strongbow cider, Pannack swigs back from a bottle of Pinot Grigio, peels open the pack of nude playing cards purchased from a Southend joke shop and gently asks: “What have you learnt about me today, Dench?” I know what this is, this is one of those shared moments of silence, of reflection, of emotion. I think about the powerful photograph she took of Shay smoking a cigarette from a car window on a day out with the teenager. “WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT ME TODAY, DENCH!” Oh! It wasn’t a shared moment of silence and reflection. I’ve learnt that I prefer it when Pannack smiles and those smiles have to be earned. Arriving back among the city suits drinking pints of Peroni in low-level Fenchurch Street sunshine, we say goodbye, I hesitate at Tower Hill underground train station, pull out my own camera and pull on tight my rucksack and decide, that today, it’s better to walk.

A version of this article first appeared in the book - THE DENCH DOZEN: Great Britons of Photography Vol. 1



Friday, 29 December 2017

A1: BRITAIN on the Verge

In the early 1980s, English photographer Paul Graham, documented the life and landscape of the A1. 25 years later, I made the  photographic journey along Britain’s longest road.
 
Babs sat under the menu board in BABS cafe where she has worked with her husband Pendleton for "27 long years". Blyth, Nottinghamshire ©Peter Dench

Britain is about to change. The faultlines that exist across the country have been exacerbated by the nation’s 2016 decision to leave the EU and the unconvincing outcome of the June 2017 general election. Communities and families have been divided. Is life in Britain about to become better or worse? Will employment opportunities increase or diminish? Will the economy and industries collapse or thrive? Are the British worried about the future and do elderly people, the majority of whom voted Leave, care less about it than the young? Will Britain leaving the European Union mean immigrants will feel unsafe and be forced to leave? How proud do people feel to be British?

Challis Cooper (20) and Arnold (22) take a break at Baldock Extra Motorway Services, on their way to visit family in Great Yarmouth. Radwell, Baldock, Bedfordshire ©Peter Dench

These are some of the many questions I wanted to put to the people of Britain. The A1, Britain’s longest numbered road, was my tendril to them, an artery that connects as much as it divides. It begins near St Paul’s in the City of London, zipping north through the suburbs of Bedfordshire, the industrial East Midlands, north east England and the east coast of Scotland, ending around 410 miles later in Edinburgh. I travelled it’s length photographing the eclectic characters I met along the way; in truck stops and cafes, temples and homes, businesses and bars. It provided me with a route of certainty in a time of tumult, through a nation on the verge. 

56 year old Sikh, Vaz, hoses down the entrance of Sri Guru Kalgidhar Gurdwara before worshippers arrive on a Sunday. Doncaster, South Yorkshire ©Peter Dench

Houses situated in close proximity to the cooling towers at Ferrybridge Power Stations. Knottingley, West Yorkshire ©Peter Dench

After a break at an OK DINER, Vilma and Darius are continuing on by car to Sheffield. Both Lithuanian, they have lived in Britain for over a decade and aren’t concerned about their residency after the UK voted out in the European Union membership referendum. Newark, Nottinghamshire ©Peter Dench

A selection of the reportage will be exhibited at the Art Bermondsey Project Space in London and YOU are invited


The first 500 visitors to the private view and exhibition will be able to collect a complimentary 71 page softback book


Featured on the BBC


Paul Graham's A1

A1: Britain on the Verge prints


Friday, 7 July 2017

DENCH DIARY : June - December 2016

1st My wife and I each have a bedside lamp. When we get into bed and both lamps are left on, it’s generally agreed, that hanky panky will commence. If one lamp is left on, it’s generally agreed, that the person whose lamp it is, initiates the panky. Tonight both lights are on. Just as I get started, my wife turns both lamps off. I’m not sure how to interpret this.

18th I read of a burglary at Crouch End library. So far the Police have lifted over 350,000 fingerprints.

24th 10.30am and I’m woken by a phone call from my brother-in-law James, he sounds frantic. “What’s up Jim?” “Haven’t you heard?” “No, I’m in Norway teaching a workshop, had a bit of a late night?” “Britain has voted to leave the European Union!” I frantically get out of bed.

©Peter Dench

28th Back in post Brexit vote Britain, I’m on the train to Burnley. When Channel 4 news asked if I’d like to do a report on Brexit, I said yes. They asked if I’d like to report from my home town of Weymouth, where 61% voted OUT of Europe? I said no. They said, where would you like to report from. I said Burnley, where 66.6% of people voted OUT of Europe. Half way to Burnley, a list of questions arrive via email from my producer:

Will Brexit make life better in Burnley?
What do you think will happen to jobs and employment?
Why are people so angry with London?
Why do people hate politicians?
Are you worried about the economy collapsing?
How would you feel if life got harder if the economy collapses because of Brexit?
How proud do you feel to be British?
Do you think Britain will be stronger now?
52% voted to leave opposed to 48% who voted to remain – do you think that is a big enough win to justify leaving the EU?
What do you think about the remain voters, the 48%, being angry that leave won?
What do you think about the political fallout to Brexit?
What did you think about David Cameron resigning?
Who would you like to see as Prime Minster?
Are you worried about the future of Britain?
How would you feel if Scotland voted to leave the rest of Great Britain?
Are you worried about Britain becoming insignificant/unimportant in the world?
Can you explain what Europe does?
Why do you think the Leave side said we need to take back control of our borders?
Is immigration a problem in Burnley?
Why do you think people worry about immigration?
Do you think the vote means new immigrants won’t be able to come here?
Do you think the vote means immigrants already here will be sent home?
Would you like Burnley to have fewer immigrants?
What do you think of people saying that it’s racist to be anti-immigration?
Why do you think older people feel differently to younger folk?
Are you angry about older people voting out?
Why did fewer numbers of young voters turn out to vote?
Why don’t young people care about politics?
Are young people as worried about immigration as older people?

I try to absorb as many questions as I can, try not to think about cider, and think about what to do and where to go when I arrive in Burnley. Arriving in Burnley with Michael, the cameraman, we go to afternoon bingo at a church and join the ladies of Burnley Wood for a night of darts. We visit a gym in the ethnic Stoneyholme area and chat to the proprietor of the St James’ Cafe in the town centre. We listen to the local brass band rehearse in the community centre and to the opinions of imbibers in several working men's clubs. 48 hours after arriving in Burnley, we leave for the editing office in London

July

1st The five minute report from Burnley is broadcast on Channel 4 News. The people of Burnley respond.




“Your interview gave the impression that the people of Burnley are nothing more than racists. You should be ashamed of yourself, I urge you to return and interview a wider spectrum of the community and find out the real reasons 2/3 of this town voted to leave the EU.” Simon

“I have just watched your portrayal of the opinions of the people of Burnley in regards to Brexit. I have to say it's embarrassing viewing.” Jon

“I myself live in Burnley, I also voted to leave. My issue was how you portrayed the town. You chose the most deprived areas, Burnley Wood, Stoneyholme, and the town centre cafe. You chose a  family who looked unkempt, a drunk woman in a club and a young girl in a cafe and set it to music from what sounded like a Warburtons advert or Last of the Summer Wine.” Claire

©Peter Dench

And the people not of Burnley respond:

“Saw this on TV yesterday, awesome, finally news read for the people by a down to earth guy, well done.”  Mark

“Great report and photos Peter. It’s so interesting to see such a different opinion to down south.” Adam

“Watched it yesterday, thought it was really good. Well done.” Sophie

©Peter Dench

17th I have 15 Tupperware tubs and 17 Tupperware lids, none of which fit the tubs. It’s a TUPPERMARE!

20th I’m at my daughter Grace’s junior school leavers’ assembly trying not to weep as they read out their life aspirations:

“In ten years’ time I want to be at Oxford University studying psychology and the three sciences so that I can become a neuroscientist that specialises in child psychology” Hana

“In ten years’ time I see myself driving a cherry red Ferrari through America, on my way to my company’s HQ to discuss a new game that I have created for the biggest game company in the world.” Roberto

“In ten years’ time I would like to be studying quantum physics at Cambridge University. Ideally I would have visited four continents by then.” Archie

“In ten years’ time I would like to be travelling the world with all my friends. I would like to stay in luxury hotels and take lots of photographs.” Grace Dench

26th English author and former politician, Jeffrey Archer, pauses in front of the two framed photographs I have in the An Ideal For Living exhibition at the Beetles & Huxley gallery in Piccadilly, London. I I introduce myself and explain the work. He nods approvingly before moving on to the Bill Brandt and Cartier-Bresson prints on the adjacent wall.

August

17th Watching the Weymouth carnival, I’m pleased to see a resurgence in the number of Majorette troupes involved, it’s a tights highlight #Tilight

19th I crack a can of Strongbow cider and sit down to watch the Olympic women’s rhythmic gymnastics #Tilight. The can of Strongbow proudly displays STRIKE GOLD TEAM GB on the side. I drink enough cans to believe, if I wasn't a photographer, I too could have been a rhythmic gymnast.

21st. I’m invited to do one of those online tests; if you were a superhero, what super hero would you be? I don’t need to do the test, for I am CIDERMAN, powers include; the ability to forget, blur reality, stay in bed all day, fill the recycle bin and treat gout.

September

2nd The fragrant lovely in front leans left towards the man next to which she is sat and hisses; “What the F**K was THAT!”. I lean forward and say; “That, my dear, was DENCH DOES DALLAS.” Her bewilderment is understandable. Preceding screenings in Campo Santo, at the Visa pour l’Image Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France, include: Missing in Action; Homeless Women Veterans by Mary F. Calvert, a report on victims of sexual assault in the armed forces who have lost their careers and more, and Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear, a 15 year report by Paula Bronstein. The programme blurb for DENCH DOES DALLAS simply reads; ‘Welcome to Dallas, Texas, the largest urban centre in the country. Population 1.2 million.’

Jocelyn Bain Hogg (left) & Gerd Ludwig

3rd The former Magnum photo agency photographer slips beneath the water for a second time, and for a second time, I help haul him back to the surface. It’s 7am and the pool party, well more of a pond party, has plateaued. A dozen guests begin to drape themselves over various loungers and flirt with sleep. I check through the stack of polaroids that have been taken during the evening, remove any incriminating ones, stuff them in my pocket and stride towards my hotel. Three hours later, I pull on a tiny pair of white Fila shorts and stroll out of the hotel for brunch and a beer, followed by a beer and a swim at the beach (where I’m both pleased, and concerned to see the former Magnum photo agency photographer heading into the sea). I head from the beach to my book signing of DENCH DOES DALLAS at La Librairie ephemere, via a supermarket to pick up a crate of beer. I sign 12 books and drink a beer with photographer, Gerd Ludwig, then take the few remaining beers to a drinks reception for my new agency, VERBATIM, before leaving for dinner and wine at Restaurant Le Sud, after which, I have a post dinner Aperol Spritz at Cafe de la Poste, then another, before heading to the hotel for a final time, stopping off for a quick beer.

October

4th I arrive at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie to meet Xenia Tchoumitcheva, a Russian-Swiss model, actress, blogger and entrepreneur, to photograph her for a Swiss magazine. I’m increasingly finding that the process of taking portraits has changed over the course of my career. It was generally understood that an hour was the necessary time to take a good portrait. You’d meet your subject, have a chat, get to observe and understand a bit about them, take a walk, explore some locations, collaborate. The expectation now, is an hour is too long. Xenia is impelling and dynamic, also very busy. I photograph her for eight minutes in the Brasserie garden and one minute against a wall. I photograph her taking a selfie and take a selfie with her on my phone. I take a photograph of her talking with the journalist, and the journalist takes a photograph of me with Xenia on my phone. I take a photograph of the journalist and Xenia together, on the journalists phone, and a photo of Xenia, with her phone, which she posts to her 915K followers on Instagram (without crediting me). 25 minutes after meeting Xenia, regrettably, I'm on my way home.

©Peter Dench

14th I’m about to step on stage to talk at the Association of Photographers 2016 awards, the organiser turns to me and asks, “What’s your surname?” I’ve had better motivational moments. “It’s DENCH!”

November

16th I listen to a report on BBC radio about online bullying and watching pornography prevalent among 11 year olds. I have an 11 year old and immediately check her internet history. The most recent searches include: 6 Recipes to Make Slime for Kids; Cute Cartoon Quotes; Cute Cartoon Animals; Paper Chase School Supplies and Cartoon Love Heart Friends. I am relieved.

25th THE DENCH DOZEN: Great Britons of Photography Vol. 1 is published. Enthused, I start to source participants for Vol. 2. I’ve never met RANKIN and never met anyone who likes him. This can’t be right, RANKIN has charmed many respected artists to pose in front of his lens. I think he’s a good place to start and ping an email to his office.

“…. perhaps I could accompany RANKIN on a shoot, see how he works, what makes him tick. I could assist, or probably best if I second assist, my early career helping out Donald Christie and Steve Pyke among others, wasn’t lauded! … They’re more observation, conversation pieces than a straight Q&A, think ‘Through the Keyhole’ for photographers. Would RANKIN be interested in this?”

The office asks: “What is the deadline?” I explain the last book took five years from pen to press. “Five years.” I reply. The office responds: “Unfortunately Rankin’s schedule is just to busy at the moment to take part. Thank you for thinking of him.” I think of him and what it must be like to be  busy for five years.

©Peter Dench

5th German daily newspaper DIE ZEIT have commissioned me to photograph reigning Formula 1 world champion, Nico Rosberg, at an hotel in Mayfair, London. The meeting is scheduled for 11.30am and I arrive at 11am and scout the outside for potential locations, it’s a glorious crisp and sunny winter morning. Just before noon I’m introduced to Rosberg and say “Hello, I’m Peter Dench”. Rosberg says “Hello, why are we speaking English”. I think it’s going well and enunciate my plan. The press liaison officer accompanying Rosberg, informs me that he’s reluctant for Rosberg to be photographed outside, on account of his fame an inevitable public mobbing so I direct Rosberg into the restaurant. 18 minutes later I grab some of Rosberg’s left over chips and head home.

25th J D Wetherspoon pubs do a gift card. It’s a one stop shop for family Dench this Christmas.

 All my books can be purchased here


Thursday, 23 March 2017

DENCH DIARY : February - June 2016

February 2016

15th. Bed. Bus. Tube. Train. Plane. Taxi. Train. Taxi. Shoot. Taxi. Train. 30 minute walk. Bed. Taxi. Shoot. Taxi. Plane. Train. Tube. Bus. Bed. It’s day 12 of a 25 day shoot for the Ford Motor company's Keep It Real campaign and the day isn’t unusual. The campaign documents the sometimes extraordinary connections ordinary people across Europe share with the blue oval. From people who rely on a Ford to do their job, or to help them put a smile on other people’s faces, to those who have an undying passion for their cars. People like Luca Sessa, who rustles me up an antipasti dish of peppers, capers, olive oil, salt, garlic at his apartment in Rome. People like Dirk and Trudy Regter who have driven their Model T from their home in Holland around the globe. People like Guilia Dalle Fratte, who loves her Mk1 Focus RS so much, she has the shoes to match and people like Fabrizio Schenardi, who celebrated the day he bought a Mustang by getting an accompanying tattoo.

©Peter Dench/Verbatim

 
March

4th My wife is stood naked trembling at the top of the stairs barely able to dial in my phone number.   She has instructed our daughter Grace to stay in her bedroom with the door shut. “Pete. I think someone’s trying to break in.” I’d left for the airport at daybreak and am just about to pass through customs. An attempted break in seems unlikely. I ask if perhaps one of our book shelves has collapsed in the lounge. It had not. I remember seeing our neighbours light on as I left. Ah. Keith! The hermetic man prone to erratic outbursts. “It’s probably Keith” I tell my wife. “Leave a note for him suggesting someone tried to break in and I’ll report it to the police when I get home tomorrow.” She leaves a note. Keith comes round to say it’s not necessary to report it to the police as it was him trashing his own home in protest at the night-time thumps of of our house rabbit, Carrots. He explains that he didn’t come out of his flat for fear of what he might do. I consider reporting Keith to the police for threatening and abusive behaviour.



21st At the 2015 Photography Show, I squatted on the corner of the Hungry Eye stand trying to flog a few books. At the Photography Show 2016, I present to a crowd of 100s from the Super Stage in a line up of luminaries including Bruce Gilden and David Bailey. After a congratulatory selfie with (in my mind) new bestie, Lara Jade, I celebrate on the train home with a 12 hour old egg sandwich and bottle of Magners cider.

April

8th I’m sat next to a radio playing the Alan Walker track, Faded: “You were the shadow to my light. Did you feel us. Another start. You fade away. Afraid our aim is out of sight. Wanna see us. Alive. Where are you now? Where are you now? Where are you now?” I’ll tell you where I am. I’m in the chemotherapy unit at The Whittington Hospital in Archway, north London watching my wife being pumped with enough fluids to burst a beach ball. It’s round two of six chemotherapy sessions and she’s feeling emotional. I’m feeling emotional. I snap a photo on my phone and check for an accompanying emoji. A CHEMOJI !?


28th I have an idea for a cartoon strip character and contact popular British comic VIZ. The character is called Casual Ron. Each episode begins with Ron zipping up his too tight Fila tracksuit top and heading out for the day. Ron can only communicate using football chants. Suggested episodes include: “Is this a library?” Ron is on a quest to find something to read. “You’re going home in a Yorkshire ambulance”. Ron helps an elderly woman he finds in distress and “You’re not singing anymore”. Ron breaks the news to his nephew that he’s been left out of the school choir. I press send.

May

2nd Riaz Khan, a 50-year-old former football hooligan (turned teacher) stares at the large TV screen mounted on the wall of a Shisha Lounge in Leicester City centre and sucks hard from the pipe on the table in front of him as Tottenham Hotspur storm to a two nil first half lead against Chelsea being played at Stamford Bridge in London. “That’s it then” he mutters and heads of to the toilet. Anything less than a Tottenham victory would crown Leicester City, the club Khan has supported since a boy, champions of England for the first time in their 132 year history. Khan returns from the toilet and slams his formidable frame back into his seat. I’ve been in Leicester for several days capturing the multi cultural flavour of the city for American sports website, ESPN. If Tottenham win, I’ll have to remain in Leicester for the seasons conclusion five days later. I don’t want to remain in Leicester, I want to get back to London. Chelsea, buoyed by the introduction of Eden Hazard at half time, are back in the game thanks to Gary Cahill’s 58th minute strike. Khan exhales deeply. Seven minutes from time, Hazard scores his first home goal of the year handing Leicester City an historic title. Khan, the Silverback in the bar, springs to his Kickers clad feet, whips on his Stone Island jacket and roars his entourage onto the Leicester streets in celebration.

                                                    
16th - 22nd Begin an assignment for STERN Magazine on BREXIT, the forthcoming UK EU referendum. Destination one is Romford, the party of the country most keen on voting OUT.

24th Packing for parts two and three of the reportage, Dench Eye on America, (Dallas being part one, completed in July 2015), I decide not to take Khan’s book, Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, with a photo of Khan giving the V sign with his fingers on the front cover and a current photo of him with a shaved head and full beard on the back. Instead I pack, Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber, a descriptive, steamy tale of Miami.



25th - 31st Miami is wet. More water falls on the city than is used in the waterboarding of illegally detained suspect terrorists across the whole of America. The Atlantic ocean is to the east of Miami, The Gulf of Mexico to the West, and The Everglades National Park in the middle. The Everglades is a large tropical wilderness, the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River and is visited on average by one million people each year. It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists. It’s home to over 350 species of birds, around 1.5 million alligators and the elusive Florida Panther. It’s also intensely boring. On an airboat tour through the ‘river of grass’, I see one pair of alligator ears, get roasted by the sun and bitten by a mosquito. Halfway through, I eat the cheese sandwich I brought along, pull down my cap and reflect on a week in the city of Vice. I’ve witnessed ex US Marines flexing their muscles on South Beach and New Jersey girls sipping sugary cocktails from super-sized cups. I’ve chuffed on a fat Cohiba cigar in Little Havana and been advised to put my camera away in Little Haiti (I didn’t enjoy Big Haiti, why I thought the reduced version would be any better I have no idea). I pop along to the Black Men of Florida 5K charity run at Miami zoo and attend a memorial day service at the All Wars Memorial Park where BJ Chiszar, a war veteran, hands me a flyer, “BJ for Mayor",  he shouts. Some people will do anything for power. I photograph across Overtown (a neighbourhood originally called Coloured Town and the historic centre for commerce in the black community) and I get Twerk fatigue capturing waves of rippling buttocks at a pool party in the suburban city of Sweetwater.



June

1st The old adage about London is, you’re never more than 6ft away from a rat. In San Francisco (SF), the same is true of a hobo (a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, especially one who is impoverished). You can’t sit down on a bench in SF as there’s a hobo sleeping on it. You can’t wait in a bus shelter in SF as there’s a hobo living in it. You can’t photograph a landmark without a hobo strung out across it. Children can’t use the slide in the playground as there’s a hobo at the bottom of it. My first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge is it arcing over an hobo. Outside the Civic Centre, I count 36 hobos in makeshift homes. At each road junction, a hobo holds a written message of despair on a piece of cardboard. You don’t use ‘jumpers for goalposts’ in SF, you use hobos. Walking through the Tenderloin district, en route to the Little Saigon Larkin Street festival, I witness a hobo defecating onto the grate of a drain in the gutter and a hobo fall backwards down some concrete steps. A syringe drops from the backside of one hobo and kicked away, coming to rest against my Adidas SL 72’s (in blue). Why would anyone want to escape from Alcatraz if the first place you reach is SF. The only fully restored Nike missile site in America (over 300 of these sites were designed as the last line of defence against Soviet bombers) overlooks SF. It was restored as the last line of defence against a potential hobo uprising. It comes as no surprise to learn, photographer Pieter Hugo, whose work often deals with marginalised groups of people, has shot a series of portraits in Tenderloin.



7th ‘How DARE you cut HIS Penis!’ reads the sign held up high by Dominic Benton Beard. ‘DON’T CUT YOUR SON’, reads another. A woman holding two baby dolls, smeared with fake blood  (I assume) patrols the nearby sidewalk. The mission of ‘Intactivists’ like Benton Beard, is the protection of children from forced genital cutting, especially focused on protecting infant boys. I thank Benton Beard for the flyer and board the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train to The University of California, Berkeley. The delightfully fresh, English major, Jamie, is to be my guide. Jamie proudly enunciates that 99 Olympic gold medallists have been Berkeley alma maters; Berkeley has 47 libraries and the largest Japanese map collection in the world (outside of Japan); 16 elements on the periodic table were discovered at Berkeley; the campus has it’s own police force, hosts an organic farmers market and the basketball stadium, has 12,000 seats, that’s around 800 more than the English premier league football team I support. During a break in her infectious chatter I Google - ‘notable University of Derby alumni’. My name comes up which says it all really.



8th On my final day in the SF, a suited city worker walking in the other direction elbows past. “Watch where you’re walking bro!” he says. I swivel on my heels and thrust out my middle finger. “F**K YOU MAN!!!!!” It’s totally out of character for me, but completely in character with the city.

16th I receive a reply from VIZ  Comic regarding my Casual Ron idea. ‘Hi Peter, Thanks for sending this. I've passed it on to the editors but they don't want to use this particular idea’. Pfff! I zip up my too tight Fila tracksuit top and chant on out into Crouch end to watch the England V Wales European Championship footy match.


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

All my books can be purchased here

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

DENCH DIARY : September 2015 - January 2016

September 2015

17th  It’s freshers week at Sussex University and I’m on Brighton Pier shooting an assignment for the Sunday Times Magazine (STM). I’m not sure what I’m doing and feel pessimistic for the future. Not unlike my first week at university.

©Peter Dench/Verbatim

18th “Bollards” Shouts the man, through a bollard, stood outside the cinema on West Street in Brighton. “Bollards” I shout back, arms aloft and swerve into the Bright Helm Wetherspoon, an ‘unfussy modern pub with big windows, for British ales, TV news, free WiFi and all-day dining’. It’s 9am and there’s not much dining. I order a pint of cider. Technically I’m still on a night out, just the night isn’t long enough to facilitate the drinks I need, which is why I usually start drinking in the afternoon. A man talks to the barmaid about his mate Jim. Jim buys old fruit machines, takes them apart, figures them out then wins big on them in Casinos and on Ferries. I like the sound of Jim. Jim’s also just bought a monkey. The barmaid hands me my pint and I take a seat at the window and watch the Japanese rugby world cup squad saunter past and  a man jet wash the Cheeky Chicken sign opposite.

October

7th The man in front of my lens in studio two at Shoreditch Studios in east London is animated. He jumps, hops, slaps his head and yanks his pony tail. He runs on the spot and skips left and right. Studio shoots can be tricky to build a momentum and capture the character of an individual. Today was not one of those shoots. The man is Terry Gilliam, my new favourite member of surreal comedy group, Monty Python.

©Peter Dench/Verbatim



11th The STM publishes the feature on freshers week. ‘UNIVERSITY OF SEX’ has nine of my pictures inside accompanying the eight page feature written by Katie Glass. I’ve been contributing to the STM for 15 years and delighted to have my first photo on the cover. The photograph features striking University of Sussex fashion student, Sophie, a cigarette dangles from her pink lips. I know she’s called Sophie because we had a long chat and good fun taking a variety of photographs with different poses. In the photograph they chose for the cover, Sophie is wearing an ‘I Heart Consent T-Shirt’. The T-Shirt slogan is part of a campaign that aims to tackle myths, misunderstandings and problematic perspectives about rape, sexual consent and sexual harassment, and educate Sussex students on these issues. The STM forward several emails regarding the freshers feature. One is from the mother of Sophie, she's not complaining, more that apparently Sophie can't remember having her photo taken.

©Peter Dench/Verbatim

20th It’s the exhibition and book launch of Dench Does Dallas at the Art Bermondsey Project Space in London sponsored by Olympus. It’s my first solo exhibition and features 57 mounted prints ranging from size A3 to A0, a framed replica front page of The Dallas Morning News with the headline KENNEDY SLAIN ON DALLAS STREET and a wall mounted 3D mouse pad featuring Twin Peaks girl, Kelsey. The mouse pad peaks don’t squeak. (Twin Peaks is a chain of sports bars and Breastaurants known for having its waitresses dress in revealing uniforms).



Here is what I learned from my first solo exhibition launch.

1. Turn up. I’m surprised at how let down I felt by people who didn’t turn up.

2. If you click ‘going’ on Facebook and decide not to go, click ‘not going’ on Facebook.

3. If you do turn up, buy the book and have it signed, it’s what a book signing is for. Please don’t call a week later asking to meet and if I have a spare signed book I can bring along.

4. Don’t get so wasted on white wine that you spill a bottle over the table of limited edition hardback books, even if you do write for one of Britain’s premier photography magazines.

5. Do not lean on the prints on the wall or touch them with your fingers after eating canapés.




21st I suspect there must have been a college trip to the Hull International Photography Festival (HIPFest) where I have an exhibition of my reportage, The British Abroad. I suspect this as I have a  sequence of emails from university students plop into my inbox:

Dear Mr. Dench, I have recently visited your exhibition and I am studying photography and I am looking at your work (were they in the pool and standing around); I say that because the images I have looked at are untitled. I was wondering if you would be able to tell me what equipment and techniques you used to take this photo and which one you preferred out of all the ones you took in this collection and is your work candid or posed? From the research I've seen some of the images are 15 years old? I am really sorry if I came across rude about the photo that was not my intention. I really like your work and I am looking forward to see more of what you have done. Thank you, Yours truly, XX

Dear Mr Dench, I am studying your series 'The British Abroad' for a college project and I was wondering what inspired you to create the photos? Also if you don't mind me asking, what camera did you use and what kind of techniques and equipment did you use? Thank you very much.
Yours truly, XX

Dear Mr. Dench, I’ve been looking at and into your work The British Abroad for a college project, I’m currently studying Photography and I was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions? According to my research on the Internet your pictures were made for The Daily Telegraph over 15 years ago so I was wondering what’s possessed you to finally make it into a book? Were the images you’ve taken candid or posed? What equipment did you use, such as camera, tripods, etc?
What techniques and materials did you use? Respectfully XX

I answer each email explaining the equipment that I used, that the work was shot between 2012 and 2013, it wasn’t shot for the Daily Telegraph, what possessed me to publish a book and suggest their research needs to be more thorough.


23rd An old college friend gets in touch via Facebook. “Hello Pete, it’s your old college friend contacting you via Facebook” (I told you). “How are you? I’m really great and finally made my fortune, sold my business and have retired to Spain. I’m married with two great kids and spend most days driving the car around that I said I’d always own one day. Can you remember what car it is? Be great to hear what your up to. Jason.” I can’t remember the car that got me home last night and only vaguely remember Jason. I crack open a can of Strongbow, sit back, sup and have a think. I last remember meeting Jason the night boxer Frank Bruno was first defeated (in 1989) by Mike Tyson (who was also a boxer). On my walk home from watching the fight on TV at Jason’s house, I remember admiring a black Ford Capri with tinted windows parked on the street. “Hi Jason”. I reply via Facebook, three cans and a bag of Twiglets later. “Is it a Black Ford Capri with tinted windows?” Jason doesn’t respond.

November

1st An additional air freshener has appeared in the toilet at home. I’ve been depressing the Dettol neutral air revitalising fresh breeze for years. It kills odour causing bacteria at the source. I’d recommend not applying it direct to the source but into the air. Seems my wife doesn’t like the smell of neutral air (for true freshness) and has added to the shelf, a Marks & Spencer Rose and Bay room mist with a fragrance of, well, rose and bay (to infuse delicate aromas). After this mornings flush I give the Rose and Bay a squirt. I don’t like it. Everyones s**t may smell the same but the after odour doesn’t have to.

10th I receive an email from an university student:

Hi Peter Dench. It’s XX, I just texted you and received your reply to email you. I hope I'm not taking up too much of your trouble. I am looking at England Uncensored at the moment and I was just wondering what influenced you to create these images? Are there any other photographers or other things that influenced you and gave you the idea to take these images? is there an idea behind these images and also what camera did you use to create these images and were they edited in any way? Hope this is not too much for you! I really appreciate you getting back to me so fast. Fangirling a lot about you right now!

I nearly spill my Rioja and carefully re-read the last sentence. Fangirling, it transpires, simply means ‘a big fan’. I’m relieved.

December

3rd “What is the point of you? You never have any visitors, so I doubt you’re a good friend. I’m assuming you’re not a secret philanthropist and you’re not a very nice neighbour. I’ve witnessed many tragedies and extreme suffering in my life, but you Keith, are perhaps the most tragic of them all.” Is what I want to say to say to my neighbour, Keith, who is complaining about our house rabbit, Carrots, whose thumping on the floor woke him up during the night.

The previous week Keith had left a scrawled note outside my door. I’ve decided to collect Keith’s notes:

“Hi. My rucksack got caught in the bike and when I tried to free it, goodness knows what happened (obviously it was behind me) but I put the bike back. I don’t think the hall is wide enough to accommodate the bike. Keith”

The bike has been accommodated in the hall for nine years. I hop on the saddle and pop out to get Keith some earplugs.


26th Boxing Day. The plan is to eat Quality Street sweets, drink Baileys Irish Cream liquor and watch the sport on TV. There’s a problem. The rain has swelled the nearby river and the river has burst its banks. There’s river water in the street outside and a press photographer wearing waders, I give him a wave. It’s 9am. By 3pm, my mother-in-laws lounge is shin high with river water and the house around the corner is on fire. We decide to evacuate. Church volunteers load us up with bacon sandwiches and a local man from up the road offers me his estate car for “whatever purpose you require”. I consider driving back to London.

January 2016

8th I wake up from my afternoon nap to discover the government has announced tough new guidelines on alcohol and have cut the recommended daily amount by half adding ‘there’s no such thing as a safe level of drinking’. I check to see if there’s any mention about the safety of afternoon naps.

13th I’m made Director of a new business venture, The Curators, a bespoke service sourcing, curating, installing and touring artwork by the most acclaimed established and up-and-coming artists, photographers and film makers in public, corporate and private spaces worldwide.

21st I begin the biggest commercial photographic assignment of my career to date, a 26 day Europe-wide reportage.

26th I learn that my wife has cancer; we’re advised by the surgeon it’s “small, treatable and early”. Words to hold on to…


A version of this feature first appeared in issue 1 volume 4 of Hungry Eye magazine available to purchase here

All my books can be purchased here







Saturday, 28 January 2017

Great Britons of Photography the Exhibition London UK




 DENCH's GREAT BRITONS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
AN EXHIBITION CURATED BY  PETER DENCH
 14 - 25 FEBRUARY 2017

"Being a photographer can be a solitary and selfish pursuit, often necessarily so. You compete, aim to be the best and plot your romp towards the next triumph: for years OLYMPUS Visionary, Peter Dench operated like this.

With the domination of digital photography and no longer socialising at the film processing lab, combined with the newfound comfort in his forties and with his craft, Dench actively began to meet other British photographers, to take an interest in what they have done and the way in which they did it.

DENCH’s Great Britons of Photography, brings together the work of some of the greatest living British photographers including: Jocelyn Bain Hogg, Marcus Bleasdale, Harry Borden, John Bulmer, Chris Floyd, Brian Griffin, Laura Pannack, Tom Stoddart, Homer Sykes, Anastasia Taylor-Lind and Peter Dench (naturally).

All of the photographers featured in this intimate and revealing exhibition have shaped Dench in some way; sometimes professionally, more often, personally. They are glimpses into the lives and practice of some of British photography’s most extraordinary characters."




Art Bermondsey Project Space is a professionally run, not-for-profit independent gallery sponsored by Olympus - as part of their Cultural Initiative Programme -  in association with State Magazine. The gallery provides a platform for fresh ideas in the visual arts and embraces artists from all cultures. Three galleries, three floors, three thousand square feet of this former 19th century paper manufacturer - including a dedicated video-screening suite - have created one of London's most dynamic non-profit art spaces. 



An accompanying book featuring twelve photographers is published by Hungry Eye; delivered as a limited first edition of 500, a high quality, case bound coffee table book with gold foil detail.

“This new collection of interviews and photographs by Dench is hilarious and insightful, always engaging and written with an inimitable wit and style; an instant classic.”  Tom Knox, Thriller Writer

The book will be available for purchase during the exhibition and at the launch on the 15th February to which you're invited. Some of the photographers featured in the book will be present on the night and might even sign their page! If you can't make it along, don't worry, the book is available to buy online here available for shipping worldwide.







Friday, 11 November 2016

THE DENCH DOZEN: Great Britons of Photography Vol 1

 

Great Britons of Photography Vol 1
THE DENCH DOZEN


"Dench has done it. This new collection of intimate, acute and heroically revealing insights into the lives and work of some of British photography’s most colourful characters, is an instant classic; often hilarious, sometimes crazy, always engaging. Welcome to this unique collaboration with the team behind the imaging Journal, Hungry Eye."

The content within this brand new book is the result of years of personal encounters between Peter Dench and his choice of photographers. In conversation pieces that serve as a celebration of British photography and give a unique insight into the lives and professional practices of this impressive list of subjects.
 

Delivered as a limited first edition, high quality, case bound coffee table book with gold foil detail, in association with Leica UK and 500 only.

 Great Britons of Photography Vol.1: THE DENCH DOZEN includes
 
Jocelyn Bain Hogg
Marcus Bleasdale
Harry Borden
John Bulmer
Chris Floyd
Brian Griffin
Laura Pannack
Martin Parr
Tom Stoddart
Homer Sykes
Anastasia Taylor-Lind
Peter Dench [naturally]

Dench said: “All of the photographers featured have shaped me in some way; sometimes professionally, more often, personally. I view each piece as a collaboration, a written account of our time together, a glimpse into the lives and practices of extraordinary photographers, all of course, with a healthy dose of Dench.”
Simon Skinner, Editor Hungry Eye said: “This inaugural book demonstrates the direction in which the Hungry Eye brand is evolving. Five years in and seeing the continuing growth of our quarterly Journal, way beyond our expectations, we are developing a series of books to compliment this initial collaboration with our longest serving contributor”. 

Thriller writer Tom Knox said: “This new collection of interviews and photographs by Dench is hilarious and insightful, always engaging and written with an inimitable wit and style; an instant classic.”


Great Britons of Photography Vol.1: The Dench Dozen 
ISBN: 978-0-9926405-2-1
160 pages: [inner]
Over 80 full colour and black & white photographs
Limited Edition: 500 copies of the first edition £50
Available to order here (ships worldwide) and available from additional selected outlets from November 18th 2016
Produced in association with Leica UK 
 

Chris Floyd

Harry Borden