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.

Friday, 10 May 2013



I'm Peter Dench, and delighted to announce my involvement in a collaborative project with Media Agency OMD and Reportage by Getty Images.


Over the next six months, I shall be traversing this great nation to build a comprehensive visual archive of how you live in modern Britain; where do you shop, holiday, who lives in your house, what concerns you most?

Don't ask me, that's why I'm doing it. If you have suggestions where I should go, what I should see, let me know. If you want me to photograph in your town, house, caravan, shop, factory etc NO PROBLEM.

For the next six months I am YOURS. USE me, excite me, BUT DON'T TOUCH ME!

The Future of Britain is in our hands, let's caress it.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Dench Diary : August/September 2012

1st I’m off to the Villiers Terrace to meet a man who has won me in a charity auction. I don’t know what to wear to the pub to meet a man who has won me in a charity auction. I don’t know anything about this man except he rides a motorbike. What would Demi Moore wear? I opt for smart trousers and untucked casual shirt. At the pub we discuss what the man who has won me in a charity auction wants to do with me. He wants to take me to a pub with his wife which sounds like a decent proposal. I ask him to send me some pictures of his wife; she sounds like the type of strangers wife I would like to go to the pub with.

2nd I’m sat opposite a young woman talking loudly on her mobile phone on the 10.30 train from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads. The young woman is called Amy. I know she is called Amy because when she called her friend she said; “HELLO IT”S ME, AMY.” Amy is in distress; she only has five white matching chairs and needs six for a small dinner party she is hosting; Amy will be serving spiced chicken wraps and flatbreads. Heales didn’t have the white linen bed sheets she wanted for the guest bedroom and Caroline’s Aga is broken, which is a disaster. Danielle is expected to come, she is great company and soooo funny. She tells her friend her mobile number; I note in down on my newspaper. Amy gets off at Swindon. I tap in the mobile number and send Amy a text; ‘Hi Amy, hope you find a matching chair for you dinner party, the wraps sound delicious. Try John Lewis for the sheets. Give my best to Danielle, she sounds lovely. All the best. Pete.’

11th My home town of Weymouth is hosting the Olympic sailing events and I arrive in time to shoot some stock. In the evening I join pub locals watching the Olympic athletics on  television shouting Mo Farah home to a gold medal in the Olympic 5,000 meters final. This is encouraging: usually the pub locals shout at people like Mo Farah to go home.

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

15th I remain in Weymouth for the carnival, and splash through torrential morning rain to the New Vic, Weymouth’s premier family bar and restaurant incorporating Jolly Ollie’s Indoor Adventure Playground, to photograph the 10am crowning of the carnival queen; I do enjoy a good crowning. On arrival I’m informed It’s been postponed for an hour and I join the apprehensive entourage in Banus, Weymouth’s premier Bistro Bar and Club. As the Kinks ‘Sunny Afternoon’ plays from the speaker under the TV weather map showing the deluge, carnival logistics officer Paul Parker gets to know his pint and I get to know the hopeful queens: Elysia Munday, Hannah Derrick and Gina Hartley. All the potential queens are dressed in frocks from Romantic Daze, Weymouth’s premier wedding party and prom suppliers. Elysia is wearing an aqua coloured dress, the lipstick on her teeth matches that on her lips; 21-year-old Elysia is battling to be carnival queen for the fourth time; 21-year-old Hannah, born in rival county Devon (oh dear), is wearing an Orange coloured dress (oh dear), and has brought her daughter along for company; and 19-year-old Gina, who works part-time at Asda supermarket, is wearing the red-coloured dress. I ask 2010 carnival queen Natalie Round who she thinks will win? “Would you dress the winner in orange?” I would not. Former bin man and X-Factor finalist Andy Abraham, who will be appearing as King Crumble in the Weymouth Christmas pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, announces Elysia is the winner; she immediately bursts into tears, as do a distraught Hannah and Gina; it’s been an altogether wet sort of morning.

©Peter Dench/Reportage by Getty Images

By the afternoon, the sun has got his hat on but the rain has taken it’s toll; Headline act, The Aerostars aerobatic formation display team, cancelled, the Juno Belly Dancers wobbled their bare bellies to a barely there crowd and the mobility scooter race has skidded into touch. I make the most of what remains and snap majorettes in opaque tan tights, Olympic torch bearer Di Ludlow and The Ultimate Michael Jackson, Ben, as he prepares to go on the stage sponsored by Blondz, Weymouth’s premier hairdressing salon with in-house TV screens and massage chairs.

17th My Mum hands me a one-and-three-quarter pound box of Black Magic chocolates. Inside there are no Butterscotch, Montelimar, Toffee & Mallow, Strawberry Cup or Marzipan treats; instead it’s chock-a-block with photographs from my youth. I finger one out; it pictures me stood with my sister, Jennifer, on my 5th birthday. It is the colour of all photographs from the 1970’s; a square portrait framed against a bricked garden wall and neatly hung line of washing. I’m wearing knee-high blue socks, blue short shorts, a long-sleeved pattern shirt buttoned at the neck and white tank top with green trim. I’m also wearing brown national health spectacles and a patch covering my good eye. Treatment for a ‘lazy eye’ in the 1970‘s was to strengthen it by covering the good one. For the first five years of my life I couldn’t see. It seems inevitable in retrospect that a career in photography was my destiny; I’ve five years of seeing to catch up on.

18th Away days. My favourite days as a teenager were away days. It wasn’t so much the commitment to watching AFC Bournemouth, the football team I support, play away, but the ceremony of dressing for an away day and the opportunity to imbibe on an inter-city train to an unfamiliar town. On Saturday 22nd September 1990, I travelled to Exeter FC away; I wore burgundy Kickers, grey Pierre Cardin trousers and a sky blue Lacoste polo shirt. I wasn’t aware there was violent history between the clubs and Exeter were out for revenge. After a 2-0 defeat, a few hundred Exeter fans goaded Bournemouth fans to charge; a quick check of numbers suggested Bournemouth outnumbered Exeter three-to-one and confidently sped across the pitch and harassed them out into the car park. In the car park were thousands of Exeter fans standing cocked for battle, blocking access to Bournemouth coaches and the railway station; they charged, Bournemouth ran, my mate had his arm broken.

Today is another away day; one I’ve waited 21 years to repeat; that day I pulled on Adidas pro-court trainers, grey Farah trousers and a lemon Sergio Tacchini polo shirt; Portsmouth away in the FA Cup, I had to look my best. Bournemouth were 4-0 down at half time; the majestic Guy Whittingham netting four in the eventual 5-1 win. Dispersing after the game, I was halted by a swell of peacocking Portsmouth fans; “Do you want to go with the 6.57?” The 6.57 is one of English football’s most notorious football hooligan firms. The crew takes it’s name from the the time that the Portsmouth to London Waterloo train departed Portsmouth & Southsea rail station. I didn’t want to go with the 6.57. I wanted to go home. I wasn’t wearing Bournemouth colours and after a bit of bull and bluster was jostled through to safety. It’s a lesson I’ve applied to football matches and photography ever since: not to display allegiances. For todays away day, I opt for lilac Fila polo shirt, grey H&M jeans and tan Boxfresh shoes. The game ends 1-1 and the crowd disperse without incident.

24th Reportage by Getty Images have requested information to register my press card: name, nationality, date of birth, allergies and emergency contact number are easily delivered. Blood type is a little more tricky and can’t be found on any documentation, I’m pretty sure it’s Pinot Noir but opt for the most popular, type O. I like those odds. There’s also a required section for ‘proof of life’. Proof of life is a word that will not appear on the press card, but the agency will keep, so that my identity can be confirmed by providing this word in an emergency situation such as a hostage/kidnap incident. My instinct is to choose the word MUMMY! I return the form and head over to the Villiers Terrace with a heightened sense of caution from approaching 4x4’s with blacked out windows.

27th As co-creative director at White Cloth Gallery, Leeds (UK), I get to explore the world of photographic genres not familiar to my own practice. Foregoing a bank holiday trip to ride the bumper cars in Clacton, I opt instead to spend the day with Lithuanian-born fashion photographer, Rokas Darulis. ROKAS (who shall hereafter be referred to in single name capitals), wouldn’t look out of place on a catwalk himself, and is dating a model ranked in the world’s top 50. Today he is photographing the 12 female finalists in the Elite Model Look competition and I have graciously insisted on shooting a video of him in action to promote his winter exhibition at White Cloth Gallery. As ROKAS caresses his lens over the final finalist I ask to be pictured with Nancy Serle. I ask Nancy where she is living; she is living in Oxford. I ask if she is studying at Oxford University; she is studying for her GCSE’s, next year! Nancy is 15 years old; I am holding a heart-shaped pink balloon.

©Rokas Darulis

31st Getty Images have secured me a Paralympics all access press card with a major client interested in publishing what I produce. The Paralympic press goodie bag is stacked: a mini London A-Z street map, a cereal bar flavoured with honey, various programmes and pads, three types of Gillette series soothing gel, a pre-paid Oyster travel card and a Domke photographers jacket - which I pull on. Feeling like a real photographer, I snap the blind 5-a-side football, wheelchair tennis, goalball (there are two things you need to know about goalball), swimming at the magnificent aquatics centre and the athletics before popping in to the Olympic Megastore to see if I can purchase Jessica Ennis abdominal muscles.

September 2012

3rd “Scurrilous adventures in photography” (referring to the Paparazzi); “Finger in Dyke solutions”; “I had to sell my own blood to eat starting out in the business”. I’m listening to VII agency photographer Gary Knight deliver his opinions on the photojournalism panel: The Cost of Covering Conflicts. Gary’s voice pronounces the memorable quotes in a voice reminiscent of fictional used-car dealer Swiss Tony, the eponymous sitcom character to which almost any situation is best understood as being; “Like making love to a beautiful woman.” It’s the 2012 Visa Pour L’Image festival of photojournalism and another chance to ruin things by turning up in person. En route to my festival book signing, the wind whips my come over into a dervish whirl. The mistral hasn’t quite the strength to have blown Noor Images photographers Kadir Van Lohuizen and Stanley Greene from the seats at my book signing table so I politely ask them to leave, and to take their litter with them. I gaze across the courtyard for signees and ponder wether to return for the 2013 festival. Festival director Jean-Francois Leroy drops by and I’m privy to hear that for it’s 25th edition, Don McCullin will be the headline show; now who would want to miss that?

You can download the collected Dench Diaries Volume I via iTunes for the iPad here

A version of this feature first appeared in issue #9 of Hungry Eye magazine available to buy here

Monday, 4 February 2013

The collected Dench Diaries eBook

The collected Dench Diaries are now available to download via iTunes

Yes my friends, the wait is over : Around 45,000 words across100 pages of invaluable advice on how to survive as a modern day sometime working professional photographer;



The Diary of a Sometime Working Professional Photographer is an honest, humorous and highly original diary created by international award winning photographer Peter Dench.

It is a diary about the times between the shoots and focus's on his attempts to find and keep clients, publish a book of his work and ensure that he is able to continue to work as a professional photographer. At times painfully honest The Diary of a Sometime Working Professional Photographer is essential reading for any professional photographer or anybody who feels that professional photography may be a career for them.

Peter Dench is based in London and works primarily in the advertising, editorial and
portraiture fields of photography. In 2010 Peter placed 2nd in Advertising at the Sony World Photography Awards. He has also had a number of solo shows of his work including screenings at Visa Pour l'Image in France. Peter has achieved a World Press Award in the People in the News Stories Category and participated in the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass. Football's Hidden Story, a FIFA sponsored project documenting 26 stories across 20 countries received 6 global accolades including a World in Focus, AOP Open and PDN Photo Annual Award.

The Diary of a Sometime Working Professional Photographer does not contain images. 

& available to download here

Other links that may be of interest;

"This is a proper gloves off, bare knuckle fight of professional photographer Peter Dench documenting his struggle against the day to day survival of a sometimes working pro.

Well worth the price of a pint, so grab yourself a copy!"

Dean O'Brien, Photographer

"A very well written, honest, funny account of as stated a sometime working professional photographer. We all dream, or think, we could have been in a Band, we get older and loose our looks and think we have a novel in us. Maybe we have a camera and think, taking photographs can't be that hard and that a job hobnobbing around models and war zones would be a better job than the safe one I have now.

Peter tells it like it is, hard, hard work, in these times when as musicians have found digital has killed off the market. Is it the technology or the abundance of great stock on places like Flickr? Peter seems well connected and qualified and has a certain look many seek, so how/why can't he secure enough work to treat his daughter or wife to the things many see as everyday things. I don't know Peter, I am not very familiar with his work, but if you have any flirtations of becoming a professional full time photographer (other than weddings) read this first.

His writing is great, easy to get along with, enticing enough to keep you hooked, crossing your fingers in empathy for assignments and payments to come through. I await further editions and hopefully he will receive payment from this not to be ignored journal, so he can continue to shoot and tell it like it really is."

Colourblind Bob,  Photographer

"I downloaded it last night and read through it all..!!! wonderful, rye , depressing yet uplifting..!!!"

Kalpesh Lathigra, Photographer

"As thriller-writer Tom Knox, 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."

Tom Knox, International Thriller Writer

"Bought and read. £2.99 not gonna get you a pint in the Villiers after Apple has their bite but it's a great read nevertheless."

Derek Hudson, Photographer 

"This books good, I'm a third of the way through and I've only been reading an hour."

Mathew Aslett, Photographer  

"You'd be mad to miss the book of madness!"

Toby Smith, Photographer