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

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