1st My wife has taken to buying boxed wine in an effort to save money. It’s not going well. Paranoid you can’t see how much is left, each secretly tops up. I suggest both having one box that we can lug from room to room like a medical drip or reverse catheter. I’d hoped as I age the quality of wine to improve. I once drank a 1989 Haute Brion (currently retailing online at £1200 a bottle) from a glass antler as a guest at Chateau Lafitte. That set the standard. Today I find myself ripping out the foil interior and manically pumping for the last drops like some wheezing Scot piper.
3rd “If you can smell the street by looking at the photograph, then it’s a street photograph.” That may be so Bruce Gilden but this is Derby, it mostly smells of Greggs and the Steak Bakes are selling well. I’m back in my old University town for the FORMAT Festival looking at the Market Square exhibition Take to the Streets, a major survey of street life from around the world by leading Magnum photographers. Before the official festival opening I take a tour of some old haunts. I stand on the spot where 18 years ago I was punched and kicked to the ground and mugged of my Mamiya RB 67, the blood has gone. I visit my former local the Crompton Tavern. I never took a girl there, didn’t want to risk ruining a good local if the relationship went flat. The day I was to move to London, after three years of lock-ins, persistent drinking and headed goals for the pub football team I took in my girlfriend. “Hey Pete, we all thought you were gay.” The landlord is a face from the past and I ask after my old drinking partner and film tutor John Hawkridge. I find him for a few at the home of great real ales the Smithfield before finally heading to FORMAT where it’s straight into drinks with Twenty-Twenty director Frede Spencer and omnipresent artist PollyCampanyDavidBraden. I totter to find my pictures on a digital loop. I submitted 85 but as each frame remains for 15 seconds it’s too prolonged to verify the number. It’s good to be involved and I’m in stellar company, surrounding exhibits include Raghu Rai, Vivian Maier, Joel Meyerowitz, Jeff Mermelstein and some striking crisp colour prints of automobile breakdowns from the Amy Stein project Stranded. During the after party at Revolution I say hello to former Magnum snapper Paul Lowe, now course director of the Masters programme in photojournalism and documentary photography at London College of Communication. I haven't talked to Paul properly since 2002 when I was a student in Amsterdam on the five-day World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. Paul was one of the Masters. I’d hoped the week would be treated as a free-flowing exchange as equals. Paul was more of the opinion that the Master would master and the student would listen. When the course had run I stayed on a few days for a break. So did some others. In the bar of Hotel Arena, Paul joined the table where I was drinking with photographers Tim Hetherington and Narelle Autio. He picked up my pint and poured some into his glass. I let it pass. Then he did it again. Now I’m from Weymouth where people have been killed for less. So today I keep a firm grip on my tumbler as Paul talks excitedly about his anticipated slot spinning discs at the Revolution DJ booth. It’s a new Lowe.
4th Pop back to FORMAT and stand through a bit more of my slideshow. Spot Dewi Lewis chatting with Chris Steele-Perkins. I’m trying to get a book published and Dewi is a key figure. I really should say hello but it looks to tight to interrupt. Take in the Dougie Wallace collection Reflections on Life on the flight down from the first floor and blink into the Flickr Group, Hardcore Street Photography presentation. Settling down on the train home with two cans of Strongbow and a copy of the Derby Telegraph I absorb the local news. “A man has been arrested for allegedly carrying out a sex act on a 25 year old donkey called Jane.” I was once told Derby has the highest number of people born in a city that remain there for life, literally one big happy family. Remembering the women, I give a sympathetic nod for the unnamed 39-year old man. “The donkey was checked out afterwards by a vet. She was found to be fit and well.” I toast Jane’s health and mentally pencil a return to Derby in another 16 years.
7th Visiting Focus on Imaging at the NEC I meet Wedding Photographer and PP subscriber since the 70’s Mr Roger Tyas, a PP subscriber for decades. Well he was a subscriber but feels the content relevant to him has disappeared. I ask Roger if there’s anything he likes in the magazine, anything at all? “No.” He asks what I do, “Write a column for PP.” Pose for a picture with Jake handing out bags for Aaduki Insurance resplendent in orange striped swim pants. Scour the Sony ‘make.believe’ stand, there are only soft drinks, ‘can’t.believe’ and defect to the Denis Wright exhibit, ‘the longest established and most experienced manufacturer of albums, strut mounts presentation folders and frames.’ Denis has it right, bubbles and crust cut sandwiches. I nibble at the world of strut mounts with enthusiasm. There must be so much to learn here, so much to see and much of it free. Instead, hot but not that bothered I cool down in the Cougar Tavern (Mary’s Bar) with a Vodka Tonic and the fanned underarm flaps from the women serving drinks. On one last circuit of Focus I wait to be noticed at the Calumet show. A welcome interception comes from Chef and Photographer Pete Cranston. I think Pete is looking for a Dench drink challenge. Sat in Wetherspoon he shows his intention and chugs the first two pints to my one. Four hours pass with our interpretation of the classic Smith & Jones, Not The Nine O’Clock News Beer-Darts sketch (visual on YouTube) before Cranston walks, a near full Guinness left on the table that I drain before the train.
11th Meet with international thriller writer Tom Knox for drinks in Camden. He hands me a copy of his new book Bible of the Dead. I scan the acknowledgements. ‘My great friends and colleagues Peter Dench and Dan White, brilliant photographers both, have always been ready to tell me – over a warm beer in London, or a cold beer in Bangkok – just how wrong I am about almost everything.’ Knox explains the main character; photographer Jake Thurby is part himself, Dan and me. It’s fair to say Knox has had, a rather scandalous life; I’m hardly a role model and ask about Dan. Yikes! It seems he’s the dark Dan Diary of Asia. Promises to be a entertaining read.
14th Last week saw drinking at it’s most self-destructive; often without purpose or hope. On one occasion at University, Jonathan Worth asked me too meet for a quick pint. With a course deadline looming I was wary but Jonathan didn’t come out much, so I agreed. Eight days later I called time on the session. Jonathan had of course left after one drink and completed a project in the interim. Keen not to fritter away another week I get to work emailing out PDF’s of news relevant images from my archive.
15th Arrive at Alphabet Bar in Soho for leaving drinks with Joanna Moran, Picture Editor at Men’s Health Magazine. I’ve not thought this through. I’ve never met Joanna in person before. Order a wine and scan the throng for familiar faces. MH has been good to me. Before Thom Knox became an international thriller writer he was humble hack Sean Thomas. Together on assignment for MH we spent a week quaffing at a French Vineyard, another sun drenched on the Caribbean paradise of Martinique. When the troops rolled into Kuwait for Gulf War Two we were safely waiting for Swifty the Swimming Pig to take the plunge at the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo. My highlight was the trip to landlocked Belarus, the only country in the developed world where men die 12 years before women. Why? I think it was the heart-punching beauty of the ladies. At times I felt like killing myself. We drank Vodka with the locals to numb the senses and watched the Slavic sirens pass. Photo Director Cat Costello who pours me into the MH pool rescues me from my reverie and explains the nations best selling men’s magazine is looking for health related photo-essays, committing at times to 8 pages. This is encouraging and I start to formulate a plan.
17th It’s good to have a project to shoot when work is slow and money is tight. I’ve been adding to one for some time. In an Ideal World, is a study of society's perception of perfection. Today I’m off to the Ideal Home Show; a slap of the Oyster card and flash of the Press Pass and I’m in. As a compulsive cleaner keen to see what’s new, I zip past the Bearskin-topped Foot Guards, ignore the Pap pack chasing Prince Charles and suck up to the Houseware section. It doesn’t disappoint. The 'Magic Mop, Best Mop Ever,' raises the pulse ‘The Amaze Brush, Good on Fluff & Lint’ beads the brow and the ‘Miracle Shammy’, (absorbs 25 times it’s weight in liquid) has me twitching for the wallet. Then I discover a jaw dropper, never before seen in the United Kingdom, it’s the all-in-one more effective cleaning, never again need for separate sponges and scourers designer glove Onhandz. Managing Director Colin O’Neil proudly shows me a picture of him with Prince Charles taken 20 years ago. I humbly ask if I can snap this moment with Marketing Director Angela Riverie also selling the scouring sensation. It’s a good start to the day. Move on to the Ideal Woman section to see if I agree, pause at the Catwalk, seems I do. Last stop before bus stop the painstakingly recreated Rovers Return Inn with one amiss, no painstakingly recreated real beer.
18th Today I peed on the floor of the pub. I did it for Comic Relief.
23rd “Squirrel.” I’m kneeling on the floor of a Belgravia flat. “Squirrel.” Shooting a portrait for Stern magazine of Ingrid Seward, Editor-in-Chief of Majesty Magazine. “Squirrel.” She has white Puffie on her lap. “SQUIRREL!” Apparently this makes the Westie dog prick up the ears. I glance across at Coventry University second-year student Dean O’Brien on a two day internship breathing the life of a sometime working pro. He looks nonplussed. “FOSTER'S!” O’Brien’s eyes level like a fruit machine triple bell jackpot. Job done, we twinkle toe into the sunshine.
25th Only one days commissioned shoot for the third successive month, at least I’m consistent. Not too disheartened, I’m booked for the first 11 days of April on three commitments. Two days in Glasgow, three in Norway, six in Jamaica. Then I receive an email cancelling Norway. Not too disheartened, I’m still booked for eight of the first 11 days of April.
26th Receive an email cancelling Glasgow, not too disheartened, I’m still booked for six of the first 11 days of April. Then I receive an email . . .
A version of this feature first appeared in the May 2011 issue of Professional Photographer Magazine