Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Sun

Comments from Sun readers in response to a Photo Essay published earlier this year;

"Travelling the length of Britain to capture the heart of the nation on camera." - looks like he just wanted to make us all out as a bunch of drunken fools to me! Also nice to see that the only pictures of teenagers on there are those of drunken ones and speaking on mobiles, there are more depth to the younger generation, I suppose he just went for the stereotypical image though!

As an overseas reader I have to say that this is a very poor illustration of the Britain I know. I remember the green and beauty of the place. These pictures show a poor cross section within the boundaries of the subject matter. From the woman with the hat, skirt hiked up around her thighs and what I assume is a friend with a handful of lager barely able to stand, to the guy with a newspaper on his head against the rain, I don't think we have a winner here. I love Britain and a visit always sends me back home with regrets that I missed something. But, I have to say, if this was an advert I'd been reading for "where to go", believe me when I say, keep your drunks and bare chested thugs, I'll go to Miami+

Awful pictures every single one of them. Bad compositions, wrong exposures, the kind of photos drunk people take at parties with a cheap point and shoot camera. Gives real photographers a bad name.

length of the country?? hardly made it out of london. what about the 3 other countries in britain? do they not count?

There is a VERY clear inspiration of Martin Parr with this photographer. Just like looking at his work.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Thursday, 9 September 2010


The 'Winner Takes It All' rant in Professional Photographer Magazines August Issue met with a positive enough response for them to offer me my own column. THE DENCH DIARY, a warts & all account of a (sometimes) working pro will premier in the October Issue.

Available to listen to now is the 2nd PP podcast discussing the new and exciting concept the UNITED STATES OF PHOTOGRAPHY - Join Us!

Want to know what 3000 beer mats look like ready for the bars of Northern Spain as part of the 2010 Getxophoto Festival then look now.

This years festival was opened by Martin Parr with the theme 'In Praise of Leisure' curated by Frank Kalero. The accompanying book is well worth a look with an essay by Frank and work featuring Robert Huber's REALDOLLS featured as a peep show at the festival, Martin Kollar's NOTHING SPECIAL and the brilliant AMERICA SWINGS by Naomi Harris.


AMERICA SWINGS by Naomi Harris

NOTHING SPECIAL by Martin Kollar


Proud to be featured as the World Photography Organisations Photographer of the Month with a short interview about my 2nd place image in Advertising, Someone's had their Weetabix - what will become of me next month! There's also a gallery from the England Uncensored project.

The Sony World Photography Awards 2010 book is now available with some meaty contributions from Walter Astrada, Marcus Bleasdale, Brent Stirton and 14 pages of photographs from Magnum legend Eve Arnold with an introduction by Zelda Cheatle.

Someone's had their Weetabix by Peter Dench

The Congolese Symphony Orchestra by Marcus Bleasdale

A Lifetime Achievement by Eve Arnold

Monday, 2 August 2010

Darlings I'm a Writer

Darlings I'm a writer! Grant Scott, Group Brand Editor of Archant Imaging including Professional Photographer Magazine got in touch, asked if I had a rant about the industry. Turns out I did, a 1200 word one. 'The Winner Takes It All' pp82-83 can be absorbed in all its literary glory in the August issue, out now! Also featuring the 25 Bad Boys of Photography, a good pub discussion piece - podcast. Will post a link if my rant goes online. In addition I give a 6 page interview on Street Photography in September's Photography Monthly. Download the podcast from i-tunes or listen here.

Congratulations to Laura Pannack who scooped 'Best in Show' and £1500 crisp ones at the foto8 summer party & exhibition launch. I managed to hide the collapse of my own hopes grimacing across my face and freeze a smile. If you do pop along to the E1 gallery and self-dislocate your neck so it's at right angle to your back you can probably catch a glimpse of my own 2 entries. Genuinely well done LP, 'Shay' got my vote, now off to shred my National Portrait Gallery Taylor-Wessing entries.

'Shay' by Laura Pannack

Received an invite from good friend and VII snapper Marcus Bleasdale to share a night of his Summer Hols. 'Captain Congo' was in ebullient and imbibing form as my daughter and I rocked up at the Great Western Arms near King's Sutton. Permission to board granted we chugged towards Oxford. Far from the plinking neon signs of central London I reclined with a Rose and imagined how the legendary H M Stanley must have felt on his expedition down Congo's 'Blood River'.

My shiny new project 'England Uncensored' - a laugh out loud warts & all romp through this badly behaved land, was previewed in the Sunday Times Magazine Spectrum section, a fuller edit can be viewed to subscribers of timesonline and of course more extensively at

The Denchy love bus rolls on, with 'LoveUK' being screened during pro-week at Visa Pour L'image Festival of Photojournalism on the evening of Tuesday 31st at Campo Santo & Place de la Republique. Hope to see you there!

Feel the love xxx

from the project 'LoveUK'

Friday, 18 June 2010

Beauty Pageant

Jamie-Lee Faulkner - Miss Leeds finalist 2010
by Peter Dench

The perfumed air wallops you square on the nose. The tongue quickly sticks thick with hairspray. Tongs fizz and click, heels clip and clop and there's enough fake tan to cast a small army of Oompa Loompa's. Welcome to Miss Leeds, a regional heat for the Miss England title. Beauty Pageants have always been high on the hit-list for Photojournalists, a classic subject. When the opportunity presented itself to shoot backstage at Miss Leeds I was genuinely giddy. I hoped to emulate the masters - 'Beauty Contest, Southport, 1967' by Tony Ray-Jones immediately came to mind, a bald old man with a fag sips from a cup, a distracted blonde close by. Martin Parr's shot from the 'Last Resort' of a snapper lurking by the bathing clad beauties and more recently 'Miss Southampton. Miss England competition, Leicester, UK.' from Zed Nelson's excellent 'Love Me' project all fanned my enthusiasm. I hoped to add my own iconic image to the archive. Disappointment then to hear the swimsuit round was abolished in favour of a more PC and rather 'GCSE Art' round of design your own eco-dress. Cue creatively folded newspapers, torn potato sacks and bowed bin-liners.

Beauty Contest, Southport 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones

from 'The Last Resort' by Martin Parr

Miss Southampton. Miss England Competition. Leicester, UK.
by Zed Nelson

The evening progressed in a snap and twang whirl of skin coloured pants, half eaten sandwiches and cries of 'stop standing on my dress.' My technique to shoot this type of situation is wide and close. No lurking in the wings with a zoom. Be able to talk with the subject. To me discretion is achieved by being in amongst it. To their credit the girls generally took it all with good spirit, the delightful Katie Farr, 23, eventually taking the crown.

backstage at Miss Leeds © Peter Dench

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Eyewitness at Sony World Photography Awards

That's how you do an awards ceremony. The defeat of the volcanic ash cloud added to the sense of achievement reaching Cannes for the 2010 Sony World Photography Awards and the excitement was wrenched up to maximum. Up the red carpet, 'papped' twice & safely ensconced in a Roald Dahl experience where everything was made of champagne. The company of an Eve Arnold exhibition made the fizz dance that little bit higher.

The ceremony itself, as many ceremonies are, was a little disappointing. The 1st place winners missing out on a good PR opportunity with muted & muffled speeches. The language barriers didn't help. The UK winner in 'Fashion', David Handley was the only recipient to make an attempt at humour by unravelling a large roll of paper for his speech. Tom Stoddart was drafted in to present the 'Natural History' award. Seeing him pass the trophy to Spanish winner Pere Pascual for his close up shots of silkworms was my personal highlight.

the VIP pudding was awards branded

Before the post ceremony VIP Gala Dinner I asked if I could sit at the table with some British friends. I was rewarded with a table at the opposite side of the room seated with 6 Germans. 6 Germans, 2 Brits, no French, the odds seemed historically familiar. In true Dunkirk fashion, rescue came with an invite from Vice President of Getty Images Aidan Sullivan to join his table for after dinner drinks where he, Stoddart and the charming Brent Stirton were all in ebullient form with Stoddy deploying his amazing knack of looking like a cheeky cub scout when photographed.

Tom Stoddart in 'an impression of a young boy'

Getty VP Aidan Sullivan craves more dessert

I was fortunate enough to place 2nd in the Advertising category. 10 years ago as part of IPG, an established Photojournalist agency, it was considered rather vulgar to be commercially successful, I wasn't. I even heard rumours of another prestigious agency hounding out one member for earning too much from commercial work! Now photographers are expected to excel in the multi-media approach. This award will sit with equal merit on the shelf.

The trophy of 'Current Affairs' winner Walter Astrada

2nd place Advertising, 'Someone's Had Their Weetabix'

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Negativity of Winning

Voting is currently in session for the 4th Annual Photography Masters Cup, a global online awards show recognizing excellence in color photography. I hope the eventual winners have a more positive experience than I did. Arguably it's not one of the most prestigious annual competitions, one I'd not previously considered but a few things changed my mind. Looking at previous winners there were some quality shooters in the mix, Ziv Koren and Paul Hansen stood out for me. The entry fees looked a little restrictive but I respected many of the judges, a chance to put some new work under their noses and the prize didn't look too bad - $500 + publication in a book. More decisively I had some work I was particularly proud of after trips to Liberia, India and Egypt and decided to go for it. On March 23rd 2009 I received an email from respected Danish Fashion Photographer Anders Hald saying I'd landed 1st place in the Sports Category for a shot of football in Liberia, Anders had triumphed in Fashion, back slaps all round, let the winners ride begin. Or not.

1st place Sport - Football in Liberia

2 months passed without instruction, I got in touch with The Color Awards who run the competition to ask how they expected to publish my image in a book if I hadn't sent them a highres file. They emailed details of the win, and details that I'd also had 2 images nominated which would also be required for publication. I uploaded the requested files. 4 months later I was asked to upload the requested files. I did so again. The deadline for receiving the winners cheque according to the entry terms & cons had well passed. The book was now downgraded to a magazine, a magazine that you had to purchase. With around 600 photographers published in the inaugural issue, a potentially tidy sum. I then received an email saying all winners could enter the 4th awards for free, the deadline for entries had passed. It's been a year since my win, the certificate's been filed, prize money received & spent. It's all felt rather shabby and winning has never felt so negative. I hope in time the competition flourishes and this years winners have an altogether more positive experience. I'm off to Cannes next week for the Sony World Photography Awards having been shortlisted for a prize in the Advertising Category. As a legacy of the Color Awards, a small part of me is rooting for the others shortlisted . . . but only a small part.

Street Kid Inhaling Glue, Kolkata, India

The Zabaleen of Garbage City, Egypt

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Does Faith Exist?

I haven't Faith in the religious sense. Perhaps if I did I'd have avoided some troubles. I like the idea of Faith and was keen to find out if it exists. It does, approximately 130 miles north of Rapid City, South Dakota, USA. Faith - population 548, childhood town of Cathy Bach aka 'Daisey Duke' from TV's Dukes of Hazard and home to 'Sue', the finest find of a T-Rex skeleton now on display in Chicago. I decided I must find Faith.

The motto of South Dakota reads, 'Under God the People Rule', however, the people of Faith believe that here, under God the weather rules. When I arrive the town is experiencing a crippling drought, the worst mayor Glen Haines has seen during his 53 years. The weather has had serious implications for Faith and the terrorist events of 9/11 seem detached and distant. Gilbert Jones, the only barber for 100 miles recalls the very real problems growing up in Faith in the "dirty 30's", he recalls the plagues of grasshoppers that blacked out the sun in 1936 and the absence of electricity until 1954.

Gilbert Jones

The American Way seems to be flourishing in Faith. You're not a stranger here just a friend they haven't met. The feeling of community is strong as no-one is immune from catastrophe. Sitting in Faith's 'Lone Tree Bar' I meet Tim. Tim has had 6 children 4 of which have died. On June 9th 1972, 2 of Tim's children were swept from his arms during a flood in South Texas. In 2002 on the same date a son dies from organ failure. I mention I was married on that date. Tim is convinced I am an angel sent to comfort him. I accept his blessing, thanks and 11 beers.

Tim in Faith's 'Lone Tree Bar'

Terry Botjen, local Pastor of the Faith Christian centre knew I was coming. Our meeting at 'Kris's Drive Inn', one of only 3 places to eat, was no accident. Terry is also a lightening quick artist and offers to demonstrate by painting onto a mirror a religious landscape. Terry is so hot for God he can feel his power dripping from him as he paints. Terry claims by passing one of his paintings people have experienced the healing power of God. I have to leave the painting he gives me behind as unsure whether to declare the healing power of God on my return through UK customs.

Terry Botjen

When the Milwaukee Railroad reached the end of the line Faith was established. Although named after one of the railroad president's daughters, the townsfolk have adopted the name in earnest. 6 churches serve the community including Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic and Christian with something for the Mormons planned soon. The people of Faith are proud of the balloon bursting, diving and water-melon eating 4th of July competitions. They would have been proud of the fireworks except in this time of drought they were a fire hazard. The residents of Faith will not worry as the inscription on the edge of highway 212 is optimistic - NEXT YEAR WILL BE BETTER.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The long and the short-list of it

Short-listed for the Advertising category in the Sony World Photography Awards along with 10 others including photographer Rip Hopkins who is admirable. A hotly contested category with 5 UK photographers jostling for one of the 3 top spots to be announced late March.

Long-listed for the BJP Project Assistance Awards for the 'Zabaleen of Garbge City', profiling an extraordinary community of Coptic Christians living in an illegal squat on the outskirts of Cairo.

The 'LoveUK' Exhibition continues at the Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff - help keep it open by bidding on one of the prints up for auction including 'Blackpool Couple Kissing'.