Monday, 25 August 2014

Dench Diary : January - April 2014

I read a report that mouthwash containing alcohol can significantly increase the risk of oral cancer; I stop using mouthwash.

25th “Are you Peter Dench?” “Yes I am.” “I knew it was you, you’re wearing the same clothes”. I’m not wearing the same clothes. On Thursday, for my presentation at the Dokfoto festival in Oslo, I wore a red Fila lambswool sweater with blue and white trim and a long-sleeved blue Fila crew-neck T-shirt. Sitting in the audience for today’s festival presentations by Kadir Van Lohuizen, Anna Claren and Newsha Tavakolian, I’m wearing a blue Fila lambswool sweater with white and red trim and a long-sleeved white Fila roll-neck. I explain this to my inquisitor, she seems nonplussed.  

29th A company who make gloves get in touch to ask if I will endorse their product. The gloves provide the wearer with unparalleled levels of comfort and grip, in all weathers and conditions. The gloves are perfect for all levels of sport and available in a wide range of sizes, they are designed to adapt to changes in temperature and moisture levels, ensuring that the wearer benefits from their ‘all grip, no slip’ technology. The unique materials used for the gloves mean that they fit like a second skin, never causing any disruption to the wearer. They sound fabulous and I ask about a fee; the fee would be a pair of gloves.

I read a report that the high salt content in soluble vitamin C can significantly increase the risk of heart attack and strokes; I stop taking soluble vitamin C.


2nd On the 26th December 2013, I posted my first picture on Instagram, a headshot of my daughter. My daughter usually resents me taking her photograph but is happy and smiling. I take another of her waving from her bedroom window, holding her bunny, playing the flute and at the fair. I’m perhaps preaching to the converted, but Instagram is a revelation, putting the joy back into taking photographs without the reasoning of Barthes or Brecht on my back. I Instagram a puddle that looks like a heart, a ripped net curtain that looks like a heart and the interior tube of of a toilet roll that looks like a heart #bumlove. I Instagram a Voga class [half Yoga half Voguing], a couple under an umbrella and a man exhausted on the beach after the Brighton marathon. I snap a double rainbow over Villiers Terrace, the sun setting over Villiers Terrace, the talented and lovely Farnham University student, Lois Banks, on a visit to Villiers Terrace and the varied views from my my seat at Villiers Terrace. I Instagram family Selfies, details of my lounge and even individual portraits of my wife. I look forward to Instagramming; I go for walks purely to Instagram and leave early for meetings in case there’s an Instagram moment along the way. I don’t obsess about followers and follow people obsessed with Instagramming food and flowers, cats and dogs, shoes and cars. For me, for some reason, I obsess about Instagramming discarded mattresses. Part of the appeal of Instagram is not being encumbered with a traditional camera, the use of which is becoming increasingly rare in my role as an image maker. Recent assignments have preferred the pen, the iPhone and the Autographer, a small, wearable, hands-free and fully automatic camera, you don’t even have to put down your pint to take a picture; that’s my kind of camera. 

20th My wife and I go to see the Oscar nominated film, The Wolf of Wall Street; it’s three hours long. We prepare in Pizza Express with a Peroni each and share a bottle of Prosecco. En route to the cinema, a bottle of Rioja is purchased from M&S. Half way through the film, the wine runs out, a rookie mistake. I first took alcohol into the cinema [when alcohol wasn’t welcome in the cinema] aged 14, to see the premier of Crocodile Dundee, a screening to which my friend, Dave Thomas, had won tickets in a competition. We drank a four pack of Fosters lager in homage to it’s Australian on-screen-star, Paul Hogan. The first time I experienced a bar actually in a cinema, was inevitably in Germany, where cans of Heineken were efficiently dispatched to accompany the black and white Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night being shown in a Berlin cinema adjacent to the best known Berlin wall crossing point, Checkpoint Charlie. As the Wolf of Wall Street credits roll, I shake the final flecks of Rioja from my groin, and head into Villiers Terrace for a bottle of house red and a bullet shot of bourbon and reflect on how expensive the cinema experience has become.

I read a report that hidden sugar in food significantly increases the risk of heart disease; I start reducing my sugar intake.

24th After a meeting at Getty Images London HQ, I decide to walk home and plot the route on; it informs the distance is 3.5 miles and the estimated time, 56 minutes burning 385 calories, all of which sounds agreeable and I begin the romp towards Crouch End. Three hours and six pints of cider later, I arrive home feeling refreshed.

The Date from Peter Dench on Vimeo shot using Autographer


2nd I’m running, running as fast as I can; children are overtaking me to the left and children are overtaking me to the right. I can see the soles of my nine year old daughter’s running shoes. I shouldn’t be running, I should be lying in bed on this Sunday morning with a cup of coffee watching AFC Bournemouth thrash Doncaster Rovers 5 - 0 on the BBC’s, The Football League Show. My body feels hijacked; black dots plot a route across my eyeballs and brown mud speckles my shiny white 100% polyester zip up Fila tracksuit top. Grace completes the Bath ‘fun’ run in six minutes 55 seconds raising over £350 for the RUH Forever Friends appeal; I finish 5 seconds behind her, raising serious doubts about my mortality.

4th I receive a letter from HM Revenue & Customs; ‘Our records show that you have a new overdue Self Assessment tax payment’ [they’re not wrong]; ‘If you do not pay or contact us, we will take further action to force you to pay. We could visit your home to view your possessions and arrange for them to be sold at public auction.’ I have a look around the home at my possessions that could be sold at public auction, it could do with a bit of a de-clutter; there’s an old dehumidifier, unused electric heater, wonky chest of draws, redundant exercise weights and a framed Paul Reas print.

I read a report that regularly drinking alcohol can significantly increase the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer; I start applying a high SPF daily sunscreen.

5th In February the KTLA television anchor Sam Rubin, confused actor Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne; outrageous! (Five weeks from today, football referee Andre Marriner would send off Kieren Gibbs for a deliberate handball actually committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; disgraceful!) Today, I’m at White Cloth Gallery for their launch of a Slim Aarons and Gered Mankowitz exhibition, talking to who I assume is Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid, only to realise after lengthy dialogue that it is in fact Scottish photographer Colin McPherson; easily done.

6th In 2013, the publisher of my first photo monograph, England Uncensored, went into liquidation. I was one of the more fortunate photographers whose book got funded, printed, published and delivered to the people who backed it via the crowd funding online platform. Other photographers weren’t so fortunate, some had the pages of their book printed then left unbound at the printers; other funded books didn’t make it that far and the money ‘disappeared’. 604 of the 1000 printed copies of England Uncensored have been residing in limbo at a garage in the south of France. I manage to afford to buy back a 100 copies and make them available for direct sale via my blog. Checking the blog, there’s a comment from David Hussey advising on where I can get a good deal on a mortgage. I don’t want the first comment on the blog to advise on where I can get a good deal on a mortgage and delete it. Checking back a little later, there’s a comment from Anonymous;

‘Why would anyone want to buy this book when you could purchase a similarly "Rare" Martin Parr for slightly more money. The mind Boggles!’

And a comment  from Penelope Howard;

‘This is the same person who made a very unsavoury joke about flood victims losing their "second home" outside of London.

Most f (sic) the people who were affected in the recent devastating floods were not 2nd home owners but hard working people who have had their lives disrupted. For a photographer who proclaims to be part of a internationally known agency his comments were very short sighted. Personally speaking my mother who had their homes swamped during the floods I find this man a total cretin.’

And another very similar comment from Penelope Howard;

‘This is the same person who made a very unsavoury joke about flood victims losing their "second home" outside of London.

Most of the people who were affected in the recent devastating floods were not 2nd home owners but hard working people who have had their lives disrupted.

For a photographer who proclaims to be part of a internationally known agency his comments were very short sighted. My mother had home (sic) swamped during the floods and has been left in total awfulness.

Personally speaking I find this man a total cretin.’

And another comment from Penelope Howard;


I see you have made a link via your twitter feed about my view on your awful joke about flood victims. I see you highlighted my grammatically inferior first entry.

I was so bloody annoyed about what you said that my forgot my grammar (sic).

A friend of mine spotted your joke as I am not twitter person.

Quite frankly I think your joke was distasteful and very ill-conceived and NO I have not seen your book. Not interested.

As you can see I corrected my errors.’

I wish Davis Hussey would re-post his comment advising on where I can get a good deal on a mortgage.

7th Sat on my stool in Villiers Terrace on a Friday night around 8pm, a woman asks if I'm alone. I am alone and explain it was a choice between drinking alone or going to watch Lego, the movie. She suggests I shouldn't go and watch Lego the movie alone although everyone says its brilliant. I promise her I won't and she delivers a suggestive ‘don’t be alone’ double cheek kiss while resting her hand on mine. Arriving home I ask my wife and daughter if they enjoyed Lego, the movie? My wife says it was “Shit”.

I read a report that eating too much bread can significantly increase the chances of developing anaemia and osteoporosis; I stop eating bread.


20th I’ve a screening of my work at the Fotojatka [Photoslaughter] Festival in the Czech Republic and pack my bag for a return to the country that holds position number one in my top ten lifelong imbibing moments. I’ve mentioned this episode briefly in a previous Dench Diary, where, each year, on the anniversary of that trip, I meet the person who accompanied me and we whisper our shame. Only now has enough time passed that I feel can write down the developments of that day in Vlčnov, a village located in the Zlin Region of the Czech Republic, in the cultural region of Maravia. The population of the village is slightly over three thousand inhabitants. Vlčnov is well known for its traditional folklore festival The Ride of the Kings (Jízda králů) held every year at the end of May. It is now also well known for the visit of photographer Peter Dench and journalist Sean Thomas on assignment for Maxim magazine to report on the festival of Pomlázka. Pomlázka is the name given to whips made from willow rods that symbolises the male phallus. It is used to spank selected girls from the neighbourhood to bring them good luck and rid them of evil spirits. In recent years, the tradition had got out of hand with reports of marauding male hordes delivering over zealous spankings; Dench and Thomas were in town to investigate. We hooked up with a band of around half a dozen brothers who had a list of 22 women to receive the whip; at the top of the list was their old school maths teacher. At 8am, she opened her door and received a cautious probing of the sticks. Each whipping is rewarded with a painted egg or shot of Slivovitz, a 70% proof clear plum brandy; the group preferred Slivovitz to painted eggs. As the number of shots went up and the number of houses on the list down, I vaguely recall a young woman being thrown in the bath and another tossed in a lake; one woman hid up a tree and another ran wailing into the wood. At around 3pm, Thomas woke me up from a doze on the riverbank, my camera kit and passport scattered all around. “I can’t remember where we parked the car” he said; neither could I. Three hours, and a few bars later, we stumbled across it while silently trying to piece together events.
 Back home in a London pub with Thomas, looking hard through the Lupe at the contact sheets for evidence of a good job done, the last contact sheet offered up a surprise. Five of the 12 frames on it had been shot with the Mamiya 6 lens mount retracted rather than extended, which results in a blurred circle; in the middle of the circles, you can just about make out Thomas crawling around the grass on all fours being flogged. He raises his eyebrows and I raise my voice towards the barman; “Two pints of Peroni please, and have you a shot of Slivovitz?”

I read a report that having five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is no longer sufficient; I increase my daily portions to seven.


10th I have a set of photographs that I think would make a great second visual monograph and head out to begin what I expect to be a long and laborious task of trying to secure a publisher. Looking up from the edit laid out on a table in The Photographers’ Gallery London cafe, the publisher explains they’d be delighted to publish the set of photographs as a book and decide on Autumn 2014 as the target for its release.

I read a report that giving women oral satisfaction can significantly increase the risk of throat cancer.

A&E is published by The Bluecoat Press October  2014

A version of this feature first appeared in Issue 3 Volume 2 of Hungry Eye magazine available to buy here

A selection of Instagram prints are available to buy here

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