Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Dench Diary - November 2010

The Dench Diary:
November 2010
1st Frank Sinatra once quipped, “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” I’ve never wanted Frank to feel sorry for me. The longest I’ve been without a drink in adult life is five days. I was on a North Sea Fishing Trawler shooting on assignment for GQ Magazine. You slept below the water line next to the engine room. It smelt of fishy men. I felt drunk and threw up often. I vowed to continue sobriety on dry land. 40 minutes from docking after one hot shower and one bottle of Veuve Cliquot the sentiment was never referred to again. I think it’s time to give being dry another try. I might be brilliant. It would be a shame not to find out. I put my new life plan into action, juice a Kilo of carrots and meet friend and agent Abby Johnston. She’s agreed to review my folio and wave the fee she can deservedly charge. It’s insightful and confirms what I suspect. Commercial clients want to see a high turnover of fresh new work. My portfolio is constructed from a decade of editorial hot shots. It doesn’t make the transition. I need the folio to secure one more well paid job to finance a complete make over.
4th I’ve been called in to chat with the creative team at a direct and digital marketing agency. They have a credit card client and usually source images from Royalty Free stock. Their search has revealed large gaps; the images are often too globally generic. It’s encouraging to hear RF stock hasn’t conquered every requirement. Even more encouraging to hear they want the work to have a strong sense of British. I was once described as the affordable Martin Parr (and Parr’s drunken brother). I pull out a decade of work on British-ness. They’re concerned. The work features ‘real people.’ Would I be able to replicate that using actors? I lucidly explain this would be easy. You don’t have to wait for hours for that decisive moment but can apply what you know happens eventually and get paid people to do it quicker.

5th Now I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. Who put so many hours in the day and what are you supposed to do with them? The past four days have been a lifetime. Turns out I’m not brilliant. I bore myself. A writer explained to me with conviction you can only be truly creative three to four hours a day. The rest is mental tinkering; dealing with emails, phone calls, vacuuming, watching Loose Women. I usually sit down at my desk around 8am so by noon I’m spent. Today the NUJ are on strike. In a mark of solidarity I down pens and lens and head over to my local for a time consuming bender.

7th I read on Facebook respected portrait photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith has become a mum. Might free up some commissions. I see Harry Borden and Laura Pannack already ‘like’ this status. Congrats AT-S. I check Zen Nelson’s status to see if he’s due for an Op or recovering from flu. He seems fine.

8th Regular dd readers will know I’ve been absorbed in a project with a South Asia flavour documenting 2nd generation migrant girls living in Southall. On the 5th of November I remember attending Diwali celebrations at a Sikh household. On that fiery night one of my migrant girls invited me along to the filming of a music video for Bhangra sensation MC Special. I meet director Blaise at the Blue Green Restaurant in Northolt where the shoot will take place. When I arrive MC Special hasn’t so I peruse the impressive cocktail menu and decide on a White Russian. The rumble of an amber Lamborghini deposits the star to the bar. “Hello I’m Special.” Of course you are darling. Blaise asks if I can be in a scene as Paparazzi. He then asks if I can play the Pap in other scenes. I must be good, actor, writer, photographer, is there no limit. Then it dawns this is the real reason I’ve been invited. “Hello I’m Peter, rapper Special’s special Papper.”

11th Tonight’s the World Press Photo 2010 London launch at the Royal Festival Hall. It’s lit like date night by the pool. I survey the scene, a giddy Tom Daley. The swinging dicks are out and the bar is swell. I dive in with precision. Moretti, Gary Cochran (Art Dir Telegraph Magazine), Moretti, Aidan Sullivan (Vice President Getty), red wine, Jon Jones (Pic Ed Sunday Times Mag), red wine, portraits finest Harry Borden, air kiss kiss Laura Pannack and Moretti with the fully loaded Irina Kalashnikova. I come up for air and check the clock. Half an hour late for drinks Part Deux. I collect thriller writer Tom Knox and TV Producer Ollie McMullen from Gordon’s Wine Bar (not decorated since 1890) and move on to Soho House. Ollie did PE at school with Coldplay’s Chris Martin. Ollie and I travelled the world together. We worked on a project for footballs governing body FIFA documenting 26 stories in 20 countries. Football’s Hidden Story (FHS) was a series of emotive human-interest features showing the positive impact that football has had at grass root level on individuals and communities across the planet. The Italian team of Schizophrenics a personal highlight. During one extraordinary period of play the ball sat idle while one goalkeeper took to all fours and prowled around the penalty box. Other players tackled their myriad personalities. Ollie whispers the possibility of another intercontinental sojourn. It could be a career saver. I don’t remember getting home.

16th On this day in history, well last year, I was landing in Iraq to shoot a reportage on mine clearance in the volatile northern district of Kirkuk. Today I am in the local library flicking through the paper half-heartedly looking for a job. I would rather be in Iraq than looking for a job in the local library. I didn’t even need to be here. I could have looked for a job on the Internet at home but fancied a stroll. The highlight of my day is a stroll to the local library to look for a job I don’t want to do. I think about what the Iraqi special-forces bodyguards who escorted us might be up to. The paper announces today is also significant for another reason, more significant than my mums 60th Birthday. It’s the grand opening of Crouch End’s first JD Wetherspoon pub. Its evil sibling ‘CASH MY GOLD’ arrived last month and thrives. The local de-gentrification mirrors my career. I look through the window at the menu, Curry and a Pint £5.59. I finger my ring and stride in. It’s been 32 days since my last direct photographic commission. This is turning into the drink diary.

17th Thanks to the University of Derby I can confidently illustrate the development of prison photography within a Foucault framework, grab Gombrich’s hand and skip through the problem of meaning and bond with Barthes over the rhetoric of the image. Can I deliver a business plan or file a tax return? No I cannot. I’ve had an accountant for ten years. They charge around a £1000. This year it’s an expense too taxing and I’m online alone and it’s not going well.

18th I’m in a meeting at Channel 4. They want to turn this column into a series. There’s a hamster on the desk and Christopher Walken is dancing outside. Lazytown’s Robbie Rotten who is to play the lead is washing cups. The alarm stops the nonsense. Two hours later I’m in a meeting at Channel 4 showing my portfolio. I used to freelance for the Discovery Channel shooting on set for £500 a day and drinking tea with Tommy Walsh. My DC contact moved on and I got lost in transition. It was a welcome wage and I’m hoping C4 might fill the hole. They show me what’s required. A super slick flick book of campaigns by La Chapelle and von Unworth startle the retina. My dream of meeting up on set with the girls of Hollyoaks After Dark receding with each flap. The omens for work aren’t good but we have a mutual friend and float the idea for a Christmas bevy.

19th Attend a talk by the understated and often underrated George Georgiou (check out Fault Lines: Turkey from East to West). We shared the ITV breakfast show sofa in 2003 talking about our then projects, palettes sticky and stomachs bouncing from the previous evenings awards show imbibing. Today it’s a pleasure to be in the audience. He talks in a matter of fact manner about his need to spend 5 years on a project. Of moving to the territory he wants to document to get a better understanding and fending off the threat of financial ruin. It’s great Photojournalism. Afterwards, I sit down for the beginning of a talk in association with the Royal Privilege Society; ‘handing out bursaries to the double-barrelled since 1853’ and enjoy a jolly introduction by it’s speaker.

24th The competition season is under way and I start to upload my Sony World Photography Awards entries. I can’t defend my second place in Advertising. I haven’t completed an Advertising job in 2010. Instead opt for Portraits, Campaign and Contemporary Issues. It’s not looking good so decide on a trip out. I’m after an experience embracing naked ladies, possibly ginger, mature breasts, underwear, maybe a wounded deer. Clear you filthy minds. It’s time for the annual romp down to the Taylor Wessing Portrait Exhibition at the NPG.

25th Plan to attend daughters’ school Advent fair. I’m thinking a crispy cake, mulled wine, scratched Dylan CD and a few 50p novels. £5 top night. Arriving it’s like John Lewis on location. This is competitive parenting at its fiercest. Kids have been drafted in as Mini Boden mannequins. Local business Tim Spiers Photography is selling hard, well his assistant on the stand is. Tim is busy elsewhere. I flick through the price list; Event photography £100 an hour, Corporate portrait files £50 each. There’s a flyer for ‘Cherub of the Year Competition’ with a ‘life changing’ £10,000 up for grabs. I scan the room for unattended babies. Nothing. Push through the crowd and present myself at the bar. I can afford two glasses.

30th The snow falls and the month closes with a diary first, no new paid Photographic commission. Despite this I decide to Photolease a Canon MKII Body and start my convergence adventure. £99.56 down payment, £49.56 monthly payments for three years. No penalties if you pay it back early. It could happen although I expect by the time I do pay it off they’ll be another upgrade. Hover cameras? It’s not looking like a very Merry Christmas at Casa Dench but I wish you all a terrific one. I hope you feel a bit better about your lives by reading about mine and return for more adventures of a sometimes working-pro in the New Year. The next installment is already shaping up to be a cracker. Yesterday I received a phone call. Words more joyful than “it’s a healthy baby girl” were shouted in my ear; “ARE YOUR JABS UP TO DATE?”

Next installment, the dench diary takes to the skies!
First published in the January issue of Professional Photographer Magazine, back issue are available on their website

No comments:

Post a Comment