Friday, 9 October 2015


  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: The Bluecoat Press (19 Oct. 2015)
  • Available to order HERE

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

 “In the summer 2015, award winning photojournalist, Peter Dench, was unleashed to photograph the iconic city of Dallas, Texas. Dench’s journey took him across the vast urban landscape capturing the colour and characters he met along the way. His forensic eye reveals a place far removed from the fantasies of film and television, a contrasting metroplex of baseball caps and cowboy hats, horsepower and horses. DENCH DOES DALLAS, the book and exhibition, is a saturated slap about the senses, a sideways glance at a fully loaded, remarkable American territory.”

 ©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

Monday, 27 July 2015

Dench Diary : November 2014 - January 2015

November 2014

14th It’s a very British triple book launch at The Photographers’ Gallery in London and the bookshop is swell. John Bulmer’s tower of Wind of Change are being swiftly signed away; Patrick Ward is diminishing his stack of Being English and my pile of A & E: Alcohol and England, has had to be replenished. Looking around, it’s a bit like a wedding; a room full of people I’m glad are here but can’t spend as much time talking too as I’d like. Those who have taken time to attend are friends who were generally there at the beginning of my career, and I hope, will be there for a beer at the end.

16th I fasten the Very Very Important Person [VVIP] wristband on and take my place in line with 34 other VVIP’s as we make our delayed way to the front row of a room of slightly peeved and envious thousands. The young and beautiful female compere, gingerly navigates the rucked stage carpet as the audience leer and jeer; the microphone slightly distorts her dulcet voice. The crowd gasps, I dare say, quivers, as tanned Hollywood action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger (shorter than you might think), fist-pumps into view.  After an entertaining hour in the company of Arnie and his anecdotes, the VVIP’s, who have paid £2000 to be here, are escorted upstairs to a private room of the Lancaster Hotel in London for a more intimate audience. Arnie firmly navigates the room, signing the red dressed breasts of Pang, who is visiting from Great Yarmouth with her partner, Darren. He signs DVD covers for Howard, who has a friend who has met Arnie 56 times. I meet Arnie for the first time and ask if he’s any life-advice? “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pretend you do.” That’s advice I can live by. I ask if I can get him a glass of champagne. Arnie moves on. I get myself a shot of Vodka champagne flavoured with creme de cassis (yet to be officially released in the UK) and tuck into the VVIP nuts; olives; mini burgers and bangers with a mash dip.

18th I receive a letter from the office of prime minister David Cameron saying thank you for the copy of A & E I sent him. Thank You! I was hoping to be summoned to an audience with the PM and bestowed the title of Booze Tzar of Britain.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

20th People often ask why I choose to live in London when there is no longer the need and finances are tight; I often ask myself the same question. Checking the diary explains the benefits: book launch at The Photographer’s Gallery; a corporate shoot on Oxford Street; a last minute commission to attend the Schwarzenegger event and tonight’s leaving drinks for Telegraph Magazine Director of Photography, Cheryl Newman, hosted at the newly opened Salmontini in Belgravia. It would have cost me a months rent in travel to London and overnight accommodation for the past week alone. Cheryl ‘Chezza’ Newman, has in my opinion, been consistently the best picture editor in Europe for over a decade. Chezza has commissioned me to photograph inside Europe’s largest brothel (12 floors of whores); on the set of television series This Life: Ten Years On; Footballers’ Wives; Green Wing; Rev and Scott & Bailey. She has sent me to Finland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, America, Rwanda and many places in between. She has insisted I party with models and Maharaja’s and signed off mini-bar expenses that would have significantly reduced the national debt . By her own admission, she awarded me the best commission that came her way during her 16-year tenure; a week travelling across India with billionaire Vijay Mallya. As she delivers her farewell to the wishing her well crowd, another chapter in the collapse of editorial photography publishing is witnessed.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

21st I receive an email inviting me to attend dinner at the House of Lords with guest speaker, Alastair Campbell. The advise is to dress casual. I make a note to dry clean my Fila tracksuit.

22nd My daughter, Grace, is ten years old today. Friends and family begin to message. ‘Where does the time go?’ I can tell you where the time goes: Getting up at 6am; hospital and doctors appointments; dental check-ups; swimming club; running club; basketball and netball club; school drop off; school pick-up; off-school sick days; changing beds; making beds; homework; flute lessons; animation club; play rehearsals; trips to the zoo; trips to the aquarium; visits to museums; dropping off at friends houses; holidays; picking up from friends houses; washing clothes; ironing clothes; putting away clothes; cooking meals; preparing lunches; collecting cuddles; choosing pets; bike rides; scooter rides; piggyback rides; tickle time; bath time; hair cuts; brushing hair; drying hair. Among others.

24th I’m sat tightly holding Grace’s hand (the one that’s not fractured) in clinic 1b at The Whittington Hospital in north London. There’s a light shade streaked with blood; a woman screams as she plummets to a gory death from an upstairs balcony. It’s hardly an appropriate television show to be screening and I’m relieved when our names are called out for our appointment.

26th I’ve been invited to take a tour of the Getty Images archive housed in west London. There are millions upon millions of photographs by some of the worlds most respected photographers. I can open any door; pull a box from any shelve; turn the page of any magazine. “Peter, what would you like to see?” asks my host, arcing his arm across the army of receding shelves. I consider this for a short time. “Got any nineteenth-century pornography?”

29th People often ask  me if I’m an alcoholic. I know I’m not an alcoholic because I know Pete Crowley. I first met Pete in 2001 when he was a resident at Alex 1, the alcohol treatment unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, Kent, where he was being treated for alcohol addiction. I was invited there to photograph him. Two photographs documenting his treatment feature in the A & E book. Today I take some pastries around to Pete’s flat; he’s been dry for eight years. As we munch blueberry muffins with his girlfriend, she explains after one particular binge, thinking it might be best to lock Pete in his flat. Pete explains that if she had, he’d have jumped through the window to get another bottle of booze. Pete lives on the top floor of a tall block of apartments. I wouldn’t jump out of the top floor of a block of apartments for a bottle of booze. 

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

30th My wife and daughter have gone away for the weekend; this worries me. Afraid of being left to my own, often self-destructive devices, I have scheduled two portraits for my reportage of female fitness models, to avoid sitting in my pants all morning watching The Football League Show on BBC iPlayer while waiting for The Alex bar and restaurant to open. My first meeting is with Aleksandra in Palmers Green; I arrive in the vicinity of her home half-an-hour early. As I watch the drivers irritably navigate through drizzling rain dousing the North Circular road; I bitterly regret not sitting in my pants watching The Football League Show on BBC iPlayer waiting for The Alex bar and restaurant to open.


2nd I have reached another milestone in life; I am no longer visible to attractive women under 40.

5th “My Daddy’s photographed Darcey Bussell” says the irksome girl in class 4F. “I photographed Darcey Bussell when I visited the set of BBC television show, Strictly Come Dancing while on assignment for the The Times magazine ” I reply. “No you haven’t, you’re a liar and I bet you haven’t directed a film for SKY TV? My Daddy has.” she continues, flicking her pigtails behind her massive ears (or tiny head). “No, but I did make my television debut as a presenter on Channel 4 News in September, delivering a piece to camera on What is it to be English?” I add. “Then why are you photographing us in a silly school play?” As the children of Google entrepeneurs; A-list film actors and captains of industry wait their turn, I mumble; “I thought it would be a rewarding and enjoyable thing to do.”

7th I need to buy a Christmas present for my sisters fiancĂ© Geoff. I've only met Geoff twice and ask my sister what he might like. He might like a bottle of Pernod, the anise-flavoured liqueur created after Absinthe was banned. It’s little inconvenient; I not only have to leave Crouch End to find a bottle but also return to 1986.

12th I ask Jim Stephenson, founder of The Miniclick Photo Talks, if I can leech a Brighton book launch of A & E at the Miniclick Christmas party. Jim agrees. I ask the publisher of A & E, if they can send a couple of boxes books to Brighton; they arrive at my home in London. Undeterred, I place two of the 11.9KG boxes into my biggest suitcase and lift it towards the front door; the handle on the suitcase breaks. Undeterred, I raft it down the stairs and drag it to the bus stop just in time to join the after-school crush. I fail to board two buses as pupils from the local High School push in; they don’t go upstairs - most of the Kentucky Fried friends will only travel one-stop. Arriving in Brighton, guests in the intimate room upstairs at Mrs Fitzherberts are more into partying hard than purchasing hardback books. Undeterred, I haul the suitcase back down the stairs and towards Brighton railway station. Millwall, arguably the most violent of England’s football fans, have just triumphed over Brighton and are overwhelming the station concourse. Dressed in my usual attire of a 1982/83 season football hooligan, with a large heavy suitcase and a scalpel in my pocket (used for opening the boxes of books), I feel slightly vulnerable. Undeterred, I board the train home just in time to mingle with the boozed up midnight masses vying for a northbound tube train on the Victoria line; I fail to board two trains before I squeeze onto a third one bound for home.

January 2015

5th First official day back at work; the crows outside my bedroom window claw through a whisked mist morning: I check my bank balance, £0. I check money I owe, £0. I check money I’m owed, £0. I call that a level playing field and begin to slowly crank the year into action.

9th I haven’t had an assignment since mid-November, 2014, and inform my agent, “I’m up for anything.” Turns out anything is taking full length snaps of guests at a menswear fashion party for the Wall Street Journal. I’m provided with a list of around forty luminaries expected to attend; at the top of the list is rapper, Tinie Tempah. Arriving at the party, I’m reminded of one of my first ever professional assignments in 1998, for GQ magazine (except GQ magazine said ‘just take photographs of what you find interesting’). What I found interesting, was shoes and cleavages. When I delivered the contact sheets to the GQ office at Vogue House, I was asked by then Art Director, Tony. “Were you really crawling around on the floor snapping women’s shoes?” I was. Today there is no Tinie Tempah, or crawling on the floor and I struggle to leverage enough space in the crowded house to shoot full-length portraits.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

10th I have a confession to make: I, I, I, I haven’t-had-a-drink-this-year!! There, I said it. It’s the longest I’ve been without an alcoholic drink since birth. It’s been a disappointing experience. I thought my general lethargy; lack of concentration; headaches and constant brooding about my own mortality were a result of the booze. This was an incorrect assumption. Today, the waking ache of another day without the prospect of a drop or a dram is too much and after 10 horrifyingly long days, I decide it is healthier to wake up with a choice. I choose to drink. Next time I expect to give up alcohol, it will only be on the express orders of a doctor. I zip up and on my new red, blue and cream hooded Fila cagoule and head over to The Alex to apologise.

28th After dinner speaker, Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy for Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, is describing the worrying normalisation of alcohol in British society. The Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, seated to my right, nods gently in agreement. Among the sixteen guests sat in the intimate Home Room at the House of Lords, is military top brass; Sirs from the medical profession; robust looking lawyers; comedian and actor, John Thomson and me, an increasingly rare occasion, where I’m one of the younger guests. How exactly did I get here? Drink got me here.

After the book launch of A & E, I sent a copy to Alcohol Concern, a small national charity with a big vision that has been driving attempts to change the drinking culture in the UK. They sent me an invite to dinner to celebrate and discuss Dry January, an awareness campaign and fundraiser to encourage the nation to think about drinking less.

The idea of a Dry January is a bold one. It’s arguably the worst month to give up booze: it’s long, it’s dark, and it contains Blue Monday (typically the third Monday of the month and purported to be the most depressing day of the year). As a freelance photographer, it can be even more depressing: there is generally less work in January than other months (allowing more time to be spent in the pub) and what money there is left at the end of it, is swallowed by the Taxman.

As the cured salmon is rapidly dispatched, followed by rump of lamb and apple treacle tart (served with bramble compote and clotted cream), the conversation around the table in the Home Room is ebullient and frank; probing and profound. Comments from Sir Ian Thomas Gilmore, a professor of hepatology (diseases of the liver) and former president of the Royal College of Physicians of London, are particularly poignant. Baroness Hayter brings the evening to a close and we raise a fizzy water toast “to Dry January.” I heave my frame back through Black Rod’s Garden Entrance (Black Rod is nowhere to be seen) and breathe into a bitterly cold, lamp-lit London and consider a dry February, then swing into Saint Stephen’s Tavern, the closest pub to the Houses of Parliament, for a well earned, very large glass of red.

A version of this feature was first published in Issue 2 Volume 3 of Hungry Eye Magazine available to purchase here


Delighted to have again collaborated with Bluecoat Press to publish The British Abroad 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Dench Diary : July - Novemer 2014

July 2014

27th “What do you do for a job Peter?” It’s an interesting question and I’m not sure of the answer. My business card says photographer but I haven’t had too many photographic assignments this month. Gallerist? Operating as Co-Creative Director at White Cloth Gallery is a daily commitment but it doesn’t feel like a job that defines me. Writer? At the moment, in terms of income generated, that would be the most accurate but if I say that to my inquisitor, they may ask: “what do you write about?” and I’d have to say, “I write about myself mostly” and that would make me sound like a dick. I don’t want to sound like a dick in front of this pouting crimson beauty. An uncomfortable amount of time has passed. “I just do bits and bobs really.” She turns away towards the bar of The Alex and I turn back to my pint.

29th I read a report that heavy social drinkers are at increased risk of liver disease. I do most of my heavy drinking alone so should be OK?


3rd I show my daughter a role of transparency slide film that she studies with curiosity. In another few years, I think she’ll look at a Sunday newspaper magazine supplement in the same way. A recent conversation I had with a public relations expert, they explained that online bloggers were more beneficial to business than print reporters.

©Peter Dench

9th It’s the Dench family summer holiday and the destination is Oslo, Norway. I’m thinking of relocating to Oslo; my wife says she’d feel comfortable and my daughter Grace, although admitting she’d miss her best friend Poppy, is generally OK with the idea. I roll the possibility around my head as my eyes rove over the six packs of Norwegian white beer. I opt for the White Dog wheat beer and place it into my basket alongside the charcuterie. At the checkout, I’m informed no alcohol can be served after 6pm on a Saturday. It’s 6.05pm (5.05pm in the UK). The Dench family will not be moving to this barbaric country of fluffy-jumper-wearing-whale-killers.

16th Former England footballer and Tottenham Hotspur legend, Gary Mabbutt, deftly flicks the ball towards former captain of the Netherlands national team and 1988 UEFA European Championship victor, Ruud Gullit, who controls it on his chest before playing a neat low pass to Holy Trinity Junior School football league winner and vice captain of Weymouth Grammar School, Peter Dench, who toe-pokes it back to Mabbutt. On the 18th July, 2007, after a penetratingly cold boat ride through nose-dripping sea fog, I arrived on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned. I was part of a FIFA contingent visiting the island ahead of a special 90 minutes for Mandela football match to be played at the Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa in the evening, honouring Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday; Mabbutt and Gullit would play in a Rest of the World XI against an African XI. We’d toured the prison together; chatted to some former inmates and had our photograph taken with the most decorated African player of all time, Samuel Eto'o, before a glorious and spontaneous kick about broke out in the grounds of the prison against a backdrop of razor wire and guard towers. It’s a memory firmly embedded in my top 10 football highlights of all-time and one I’m reminding Gullit of as he prepares for punditry alongside Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker for tonight’s BBC Match of the Day programme. I’m on set shooting a behind-the-scenes reportage for the Telegraph Magazine in the shows 50th anniversary year. Gullit has no idea who I am and only a vague idea of what I’m talking about. 

 ©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

21st “You’ve lost weight.” I didn’t know I’d gained weight. “Your face doesn’t look so flabby.” I didn’t know my face had become flabby. In between ego checks from my mother, I’m dipping into her box of old family photographs and pulling out a handful to show Grace. There’s one of me at my sisters wedding, dressed in borrowed clothes after I spent the £150 my mother had given me to buy a new outfit on 170 cans of Tennent’s lager. There’s one from an early 1980’s Christmas morning; my sister is holding a ghetto blaster and I hold up my first computer, an Acorn Electron (the budget version of the more poplar BBC computer preferred in classrooms); a third photograph, from 1982, shows my sister and I sharing a yellow Pac Man game which was to be played “in the breakfast room only” as it was too noisy for the lounge. Grace is thrilled to be witnessing these prompts from the past and I make a decision to be more disciplined in printing out digital files for her own box of tangible childhood memories.

 ©Peter Dench

28th I’ve been invited as a take-over guest for the @telegraphtelephoto Instagram feed. Five to ten photographs are to be posted over a three-day period. It sounds like a challenge and one I choose to take seriously. I’ve not got much on this week so opt to produce a sequence of images about Crouch End, the area of north London in which I live. I post a photograph of ‘cardboard cut out Dench’ in bed (38 likes), unloading the food shopping (26 likes) and cleaning the living room (35 likes). I Instagram a rainbow over The Alex (41 likes); a cricket match (37 likes); my tubby tennis partner Johnny (13 likes) and a spilt fast food drink on the seat of a number 29 bus to Camden (45 likes). Struggling to fill my quota, I grab a routine shot of a Maserati sports car parked at the end of my street. It’s parked there most days, more a weekend drive for it’s owner who prefers a silver Porsche convertible as their daily run-around. I choose the Inkwell filter with white border and give it a bit of linear tilt and shift (146 likes).

©Peter Dench


7th “Girls. Remember; do not stand with your legs open. EVER!” I’ve decided to add to my photo-series on the UK and am investigating the world of male and female natural fitness competitors. I'm at a pre-competition boot camp hosted by champion Ms Bikini athlete, Emma Louise Burrows at her studio in Debden. She is helping clients show off what they have achieved in the gym with grace and style ahead of the 2014 Musclemania British Championship.

13th It’s the day of the Musclemania British Championship and I’m maneuvering with caution around the male dressing rooms located in the basement of The Shaw Theatre; it’s a squashed and sweaty affair of nearly naked men rubbing, rehearsing, flexing. I pull out my notebook and bright pink pen, make a mental note not to use a bright pink pen in future, open my notebook and write: ‘Revise project to FEMALE natural fitness competitors.’

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

16th Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, is stood next to a boxing ring wearing his trademark colourful tie, pontificating on the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. He turns away from the gathered crowd to deliver a piece to camera: “The prospect of a border is causing many on the southern side to reassess what it actually means to be not British but English. We’ve been out in the sun in Southend enjoying that very English thing, the seaside, with photographer, Peter Dench, who has spent his career capturing Englishness. This is his take on our national identity.” On Friday, I had indeed spend the day in Southend with a news crew, delivering from memory around 600 words to camera at various locations along the promenade. The feature was edited and ready for broadcast on the Monday; then bumped on to Tuesday’s running order. The only occurrence that could have scuppered my appearance, was the Queen’s death or perhaps the discovery of Madeleine McCann; I would acquiesce to both. Two minutes after Snow’s introduction, my television presenter debut is over.

25th I push a digit towards the door bell on the unassuming suburban north London house and press. A beautiful woman wrapped amongst folds of soft clothing asks me inside. We sit in the kitchen and chat about Poland, the land of her father. She asks; “Would you like me to put on my bikini?” I ask; “Could you put on the skimpy blue one with the sparkly fastenings?” She does and I begin to photograph Kaz, stood in the lounge and garden with her third place trophy in the Bikini Figure Category achieved at her first competitive fitness competition; the 2014 Muslcemania British Championships.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

30th After three challenging, inspiring and engaging years, I am no longer involved with White Cloth Gallery in any capacity. The vision for taking the business forward became increasingly contrary with that of the investors and all parties have made a clean break to explore new opportunities. To everyone who exhibited, visited and supported the enterprise during my tenure as Co-Creative Director; THANK YOU.


4th My wife gently takes the hand of another man and disappears through an open door. I stand fixed, emasculated, waves of nausea ripple along my length. I imagine David Murphy (played by Woody Harrelson) must have felt the same as he witnessed his wife Diana (Demi Moore) leave to spend a night with John Cage (Robert Redford) for an agreed fee of one million dollars. I feel even more nauseous when the the pin-prick of an airplane is heard passing overhead and they plummet together from over 10,000 feet into a big blue sky. During our 19-year relationship, my wife had repeatedly commented: “I’d like to do a skydive.” “I’d like to do a skydive.” “I’d like to do a skydive.” It didn’t seem such an Indecent Proposal, so for her 40th birthday, I bought her one.

©Peter Dench

17th Our house rabbit, Carrots, bites clean through the live wire of our vacuum cleaner as my wife is cleaning his cage; around 240 volts shoot through his teeth and gums and exit via his left ear, leaving a singed crop of whiskers. I rush the remarkably-still-alive Carrots to the vet; the bill is £38. My wife rushes the vacuum cleaner to the repair shop; the bill is £38.

©Peter Dench

23rd The Hospital Club is a private members’ club and centre for London’s creative community. I’m sat in the bar discussing television and film documentary proposals. “Peter, what sort of television presenter would you describe yourself as?” It’s not a question I ever thought I’d be asked and consider it carefully, the answer could open doors, bestow riches. “I take less drugs than Hunter S. Thompson; am less posh than Louis Theroux and probably more affordable than Martin Parr.” There is the sound of no doors opening.

25th Sitting in bed, wandering what to do on a Saturday without the family, I check Twitter for inspiration. A Tweet announces AFC Bournemouth football fans can pay cash on the turnstile at today's away fixture at Birmingham City. I check the watch; roll out of the feather; pull on some Fila branded clobber and take the rattler from Euston Station. Two-and-a-half hours later I’m in the stands watching my team record their biggest league away win ever, 0-8. The last time I travelled to Birmingham City away, rocks were thrown through the windows of the coach in which I was travelling and the toilet in the away end had no roof; it was raining heavily. It’s been an emotional day but I decide not to cry, and to stop watching Danny Dyer inspired films about football hooliganism, or to try and get myself work as an extra in one.

©Peter Dench

29th With the absence of White Cloth Gallery income I’ve asked Getty Images if I can shoot for the wire; I’ve never shot for the Getty Images wire before and like the sound of it - immediate and real, - operating like a proper snapper. Today is my first attempt and I peer up into a grey north London sky; button on a grey shirt and stride into Central Hall Westminster and a dimly lit room of flapping grey suits. During Serbian Investment Day, I photograph individual speakers and panel discussions on topics such as: Doing business in Serbia; A practical guide. Promoting export and bilateral economic partnerships between UK and Serbia and Truth and Myth; The realities of doing business in Serbia. At the evening drinks reception, I’m reliably informed the BBC Television sitcom, Only Fools and Horses, is very popular among Serbians.


1st The relentless pursuit of material for my FitnessUK reportage continues; this Halloween weekend, I’m off to [creepy] Crawley and The Hawth Theatre, venue for the Miss Galaxy Universe competition. The atmosphere backstage is intense as the announcements for the accolades begin, including, among others: Most Curvaceous; Yummy Mummy; Miss Monroe International; Best Newcomer; Most Inspiring; Overall Fitness Champion and my favourite - Best Behind.

©Peter Dench

5th Ebola; a virus disease that is indiscriminately exterminating thousands of people and contaminating thousands more in west Africa. Cases are being reported in Europe and across the globe. These are worrying times; cautious, considered international travel is advised. You wont catch me putting myself or my family at unnecessary risk. The first plane I board since confirmation the outbreak is back to Oslo and it’s ice cool climate, to meet up with friend and photographer, Marcus Bleasdale. Arriving at his home, I cork a cheeky bottle of Languedoc-Roussillon wine and ask what he’s been up to? “Extensively covering the crisis in the Central African Republic and related issues across the border.”

13th Tonight is the launch of my second visual monograph, A&E: Alcohol & England at The Photographers’ Gallery, London and collect cardboard cut out Dench to accompany me for the trip.

You can complete a hat-trick of my publications on Britishness by pre ordering The British Abroad  hardback photo book via Kickstarter [until 5th April : free UK shipping : £10 worldwide]

A version of this feature first appeared in Issue 1 Volume 3 of Hungry Eye available to purchase here

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The British Abroad : Magaluf

The first time I went abroad was in 1986; the destination was the party town of Magaluf, Majorca. Aged 14, already a seasoned beer drinker, my parents decided it was OK for me to have an alcoholic spirit in my drink; the alcoholic spirit I chose was the white rum, Bacardi. Bacardi was cheaper than coke (my mixer of choice) and the measures reflected that. The bars delivered a buy one, get two free offer and my mum, dad and older sister (by three years) Jennifer, clattered 12 glasses onto our uneven metal table outside the Benny Hill party pub, not far from the Green Parrot Bollocks bar. We slowly sucked back the potent sugary blend through bendy straws and watched the mayhem gather.

In the morning, my dad asked if I was OK? I told him I was fine. He asked If I remembered being woken from the bath in our hotel room on several occasions during the night. I told him I did not and suggested we go for a full English breakfast. My dad pulled on his dark blue swimming trunks with light blue trim; I pulled on my light blue swimming trunks with dark blue trim; we both pulled up a chair at our beach bar of choice and washed the omnipresent English staple down with a couple of beers.

The remainder of the holiday was spent bouncing down newly built water slides on bleak mountainsides (I doubt the slides had the required safety standard kite mark); watching fixed grin dolphins perform predictable tricks and flicks with a ball and bobbing around in the sea with my frequently topless mum and sister (according to the poorly framed and focused film photographs that remain in the album).

I did not drink any more Bacardi.

The second time I went abroad was in 1989; the destination was the party town of Magaluf, Majorca. My family had been replaced with friends Marc, Jason and Stuart. At our hotel, boys from Bury hurled carrier bags containing their bottom deposits from the balcony into unsuspecting fun seekers staggering along the street below. Two girls from Newcastle, in an adjacent bedroom, warned us not to leave our towels to dry on the balcony as the sun turned them yellow; it wasn’t the sun that turned them yellow - it was more body deposits cascading down from the Bury boys. 

During the day, we carried our money around in plastic tubes hung from string around our necks; during the night, we left the plastic tubes that carried our daily allowance in the back of taxis or at the bar. On our second morning, Jason woke up stuck to his hotel bed sheets, a layer of skin the length of his now red raw torso had been removed; he had no memory of how it happened. A few days later, as we passed a deep roadworks excavation, he remembered.

The remainder of the holiday was spent buying imitation Kappa and Lacoste polo shirts, sweatbands and tracksuits; losing our drinks-tally card that you needed to pay to exit the dance club BCM (not a good strategy for a club) and unsuccessfully trying to endorse the reputation of the town dubbed, Shagaluf.

I did not drink Bacardi.

In 2013, I returned to Magaluf, Majorca, for a third (and probably final) time to document the British party phenomenon. It was one of five locations I chose from some of Europe's most popular beach destinations: Ibiza, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia completes the quintet.

I think the photographs will make a terrific book that can be appreciated for many years and provide an important permanent document of this unique slice of British life abroad. An edit from the reportage can be viewed here

I’ve set up a Kickstarter crowd funding page; if funding is a success, I’ll be collaborating with Bluecoat Press, who published my second visual monograph A&E: Alcohol & England, last year. Bluecoat Press will again design, print and distribute The British Abroad hardback book.

In addition to the more traditional 35mm colour reportage, there's a section of images shot with the Lomography Diana F+ camera like the one above, of 26-year old Daisy from Clapham, south London. If you know Daisy, please forward her contact details; I'd like to say "hi" and send her a print.


You can pre-order the book via the Kickstarter page along with many other rewards and incentives I think you’ll enjoy. Please feel free to share the campaign and together we can make this book happen.

After photographing a wet t-shirt competition at Mambo’s Bar in Magaluf, I decided I deserved a drink, called over the barman and firmly requested a Bacardi and coke, raised it up, took a sniff,  shuddered violently and lowered the glass onto the bar. After 28 years, I still can't drink Bacardi.

©Peter Dench 2015