Friday, 11 November 2016

THE DENCH DOZEN: Great Britons of Photography Vol 1

 

Great Britons of Photography Vol 1
THE DENCH DOZEN


"Dench has done it. This new collection of intimate, acute and heroically revealing insights into the lives and work of some of British photography’s most colourful characters, is an instant classic; often hilarious, sometimes crazy, always engaging. Welcome to this unique collaboration with the team behind the imaging Journal, Hungry Eye."

The content within this brand new book is the result of years of personal encounters between Peter Dench and his choice of photographers. In conversation pieces that serve as a celebration of British photography and give a unique insight into the lives and professional practices of this impressive list of subjects.
 

Delivered as a limited first edition, high quality, case bound coffee table book with gold foil detail, in association with Leica UK and 500 only.

 Great Britons of Photography Vol.1: THE DENCH DOZEN includes
 
Jocelyn Bain Hogg
Marcus Bleasdale
Harry Borden
John Bulmer
Chris Floyd
Brian Griffin
Laura Pannack
Martin Parr
Tom Stoddart
Homer Sykes
Anastasia Taylor-Lind
Peter Dench [naturally]

Dench said: “All of the photographers featured have shaped me in some way; sometimes professionally, more often, personally. I view each piece as a collaboration, a written account of our time together, a glimpse into the lives and practices of extraordinary photographers, all of course, with a healthy dose of Dench.”
Simon Skinner, Editor Hungry Eye said: “This inaugural book demonstrates the direction in which the Hungry Eye brand is evolving. Five years in and seeing the continuing growth of our quarterly Journal, way beyond our expectations, we are developing a series of books to compliment this initial collaboration with our longest serving contributor”. 

Thriller writer Tom Knox said: “This new collection of interviews and photographs by Dench is hilarious and insightful, always engaging and written with an inimitable wit and style; an instant classic.”


Great Britons of Photography Vol.1: The Dench Dozen 
ISBN: 978-0-9926405-2-1
160 pages: [inner]
Over 80 full colour and black & white photographs
Limited Edition: 500 copies of the first edition £50
Available to order here (ships worldwide) and available from additional selected outlets from November 18th 2016
Produced in association with Leica UK 
 

Chris Floyd

Harry Borden
 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Dench Diary : May - July 2015

May 2015

16th It’s cultural week at my daughter Grace’s school and parents have been invited in to cook a food dish specific to their country of birth. She is the only person in her class with two English parents and we haven’t been invited to contribute.


26th I met Darth Vader once, well, David Prowse, the physical embodiment of the Dark Lord in the original Star Wars trilogy. Prowse also played The Green Cross Code Man, a costumed superhero character created in 1970 as an aid to teaching young children road safety across the UK. He visited Holy Trinity Junior School in Weymouth where I was a pupil long long ago. As I reached up to collect my signed photo, I thought him a formidable green giant. Today I’m stood eye-to-eye with Darth Vader, well, the meticulously replicated replica at the Madame Tussauds Star Wars immersive experience featuring 16 of the most famous heroes and villains in scenes from some of the most iconic moments from the Star Wars universe. I’m here on assignment for WIRED who is calling it ‘the world’s first Periscope commission’. Periscope is a live steaming video app that describes itself as ‘the closest thing to teleportation’ and I’m about to teleport the watching world to a live tour of the exhibit. Easy money? Turn up, turn on an iPhone 6, open the Periscope app, point it at the exhibit, no post production, go for a pint. Not quite. The exhibit is below ground and the internet connection dips in and out so my brother-in-law is following me around with back up WiFi. The environment is noisy and the answers unpredictable from the (mostly foreign) visitors I interview.  A stream of hearts appear on my iPhone if viewers tap their screen to indicate they like what they see and comments from viewers pop up obscuring the footage: ‘Touch the Stormtroopers face’. ‘Stop talking’. ‘Tell us who you are’. ‘Lift up Princess Leia’s dress’. Around 3,5000 tune in at the peek of the 25 minutes broadcast. I think I may have experienced the future of spot news.

 ©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

31st “No. No. No. No. No. HELL NO!” Jeff Mermelstein, legend of the New York street photography community, is whittling down submissions for Oslostreets, a 24-hour photo challenge where participants from across the Norwegian capital, submit photographs every hour for Jeff and I to edit. The best will be included in a final day presentation. I’m not being much help, tears of laughter obscure my view listening to Jeff’s verbal scything. “They don’t like anything!” I hear one woman trill as she exits the auditorium where a crowd has gathered to witness the decision making. “They dismissed all my work in less than a minute!” exclaims another scuttling towards the door.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

June

6th It’s the wedding season and first up is my brother-in-law James who marries Rachael at a Hindu ceremony in north London. I am on behind-the-scenes photo duty. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Wakefield.

13th Second up is the wedding of Gareth who marries Shelley at a registry office in Derby. I’ve been spared photo duty. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Tibbles.

 ©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

24th The deceptively nimble hands of award winning photographer, Edmond Terakopian, flips over my box fresh, limited edition Olympus OM-D E-5 Mark II and begins to instruct me through the digital menu on the back. It’s the final and most crucial part of preparation for a trip I’ve been waiting over 30 years to embark. A few months previous, I’d been at The Photography Show UK and asked Mr Olympus, what compelled him to authorise significant sponsorship for my book, The British Abroad.“Timing” he said. “What’s next?” he asked. I didn’t know. What I did know is that I’d concluded my work on British identity (for now]) and explained I wanted to swap the red, white and blue of the Union flag of Great Britain for the Stars and Stripes of America. “Where?” he asked. Racing through the alphabet I slammed the mental brakes on D. “DENCH DOES DALLAS!” I blurted. Mr Olympus nodded sagely and a few weeks later, I got the nod, funding and kit to go.


Two things shaped my impression of Dallas as a teenager in the early 1980s, as they may have done for millions across the globe: Dallas, the TV series (a prime-time soap opera focusing on the Ewing family, translated and dubbed into 67 languages in over 90 countries) and Debbie Does Dallas, the adult movie (‘Everyone on the team scores when her pom-poms fly’). One about pistol-packing, face-slapping, greedy, scheming oil tycoons with big personalities and bigger hats; the other about pistol-packing, bum-slapping people with limited personalities and big everything. I’d heard whispers from my uncle, who had lived in Dallas, that residents didn’t actually walk about in ten gallon hats and wear fist-sized belt buckles; I’d heard rumours that Dallas was sophisticated, that the women weren’t just charity-lunching ranch-wives and the men were more interested in Ferraris than cattle farming. It was time to challenge what I thought I knew in the one-off feature-length episode: DENCH DOES DALLAS.
 


Ahead of my trip, I decided I may need help and emailed three photographers living in the area with a list of topics I’d like to photograph.

I received the first reply:

“I’d be happy to take you out on the town for a drink/pic opportunity. But, I’m not the most social person, I’ve got a couple of kids and a wife that keep me grounded in a good way. Although, I do know of a few seedy places that might make for some good old fashioned grunge photo ops.”

I received a second reply:

“Haha, sorry man, I can’t really help you out there. I am a Christian with a wife and little six year old girl. The things you are looking for I am not really a part of and don’t really have any idea of where to find them.  I can give you some recommendations on places to eat or some cool bars to check out, but that’s probably about it. Sorry man.”

I don’t remember the requests being offensive! It was perhaps an indication that I was be about to enter an area with a less liberal attitude than in Europe.

There was no third reply.


Dallas the TV series and Debbie Does Dallas got one thing right: Dallas is BIG (disappointingly, while researching for the trip, I learnt that, contrary to the title, the film is not set in Dallas, nor does Debbie "do" anyone in or from the city). The flags are big; the signs; storm drains (so I’m assuming the storms); road accidents; pool parties; food portions; snacks; the restaurant tips; drive thrus; cows; cow horns and ‘breastaurants’ (Dallas Hooters was the biggest in the world until Las Vegas opened a branch in Spring 2015 but if you eat there you can’t tell anyone). I’ve decided to explore the Metroplex, the largest landlocked metropolitan area in America, approximately 40 miles from east to west, without a car. Instead I’ll traverse the nations ninth most populous city, by bus, train, taxi and on foot.

Dallas is not pedestrian friendly. Halfway through a 3.5 mile walk west along Mockingbird Lane, the sidewalk gives up. I think I’m the first pedestrian to have made it this far and consider planting a flag. If I hadn’t walked, I wouldn’t have noticed the splayed squirrel dead on the garden path at number 3902. I wouldn’t have discovered a fire hydrant called American Darling. I wouldn’t have sat down exhausted next to a pair of snakeskin sandals left under a bench at a bus stop or met a man unloading a car boot full of cake. I wouldn’t have realised the puddles all look Texas-shaped or encountered Yung Stonerz, a musically inclined collective from Louisiana preparing for a gig in the Deep Ellum district of east Dallas.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

“The car park at Baby Dolls is always full and the venue offers the highest quality experience in adult entertainment” explains my Dominican taxi driver. I count around 40 women spread across the small stages, sprawled across the floor of Baby Dolls Saloon; some kneel on stools chatting to customers at the bar, others arch over the laps of Mr America in dim corners. Adult entertainment is big in Dallas: there’s The Lodge; Jaguars; Silver City Cabaret; The Men’s Club of Dallas; Cabaret Royale; The Clubhouse; Spearmint Rhino; Onyx; XTC; Lipstick; Dallas Cabaret North; Dallas Cabaret South; Chicas Bonitos; Pandora’s Men’s Club; Exposure Sports Cabaret and The Black Orchid among others, and another Baby Dolls in Fort Worth. There’s Zona Rose if you prefer the Latino experience; La Bare, a Las Vegas-style burlesque show catering for women and Colette, for those who like to swing. Most of the venues are open 18 hours a day and clustered around Harry Hines Boulevard, one of the first highways in Texas and named after a former chairman of the highways commission; I’m not sure Harry’s motivation was to speed horny Texan men to their wet lap destinations. It’s an uncomfortable wait for the manager (to ask if I can have permission to photograph at Baby Dolls), made more uncomfortable by having to leave my camera bag at reception.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

Southlake doesn’t have an adult entertainment venue. If it did, the women would make a fortune. My Sudanese taxi driver tells me: “Southlake was named in 2014, by Time magazine, as one of the ten richest cities in America with 58.7% of homes reported to make more than $150,000.” Walking around the suburbs of Southlake, I can see that most homes have that amount of money parked on the driveway alone. Hollywood couldn't have scripted a more American dream town and the town may well have scripted Hollywood. The town hall looks remarkably like the one from the film Back to the Future. Southlake feels like a film-set ahead of its annual Stars & Stripes celebration: lights are fixed in position, security sniffer dogs paw the perimeter, flags are unfurled and picnic blankets are meticulously laid out to reserve spaces ahead of the fireworks. When the action begins, the choreography is sublime: beautifully dressed women chatter past, fragrant teenagers giggle in the doorways of juice bars and toddlers skip along wearing candyfloss smiles. After half a day in Southlake, it feels more like the set of The Truman Show.

©Peter Dench/Getty Images Reportage

I spend the rest of my Dallas days striding out of the Crowne Plaza hotel into the warm morning sun, retiring satisfied and fatigued to drink beer by the rooftop pool in the warm evening sun. I photograph people risking their safety as they dash into the road at Dealey Plaza to be photographed stood on the X where president John. F Kennedy was assassinated. I photograph clipped lawns, grassy knolls and trimmed bushes. I go uptown: I go downtown. In the elevator to the top of the Reunion Tower, I ascend in awkward silence after refusing the offer to hear some facts about the tower by the elevator operator. Outside on the tower’s GeO-Deck, I make a couple feel awkward after refusing the offer of their phone to take their portrait. I photograph out of windows and under flyovers, young women at a swimming pool party and a same sex couple embracing after agreeing to get married (gay marriage became legal across America on the 27th June 2015). I make a pilgrimage to the picturesque Southfork ranch (used as the setting for the original Dallas TV series) and go out on patrol with the Dallas Police. I take portraits of the Colt, Bowie, Texans and Martin team cheerleading teams and gather shots of teenagers dry-humping in their underwear at THRIVE nightclub. I walk gingerly around Fort Worth Water Garden where, in 2004, an adult and three children drowned in a fountain. I dress in formal attire to photograph the quincea├▒era (15th birthday celebration) of Karina Ramirez and the red carpet gala opening of Quartermaine hairdressing salon. I visit Globe Life Park to watch the Texas Rangers baseball team lose against the Los Angeles Angels and lose far too much betting on the horses at Lone Star Race Park. I’m escorted from a gun show that doesn't welcome the media and witness terminal diseases cured at the Southwest Believers’ Convention. I photograph the aisles of supermarkets and the souvenirs I collect. I photograph Junior Olympic Champions boxing at a club organised by the Dallas Police Athletic League and and pay Annie, $5 to photograph me sat astride a Longhorn Steer at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards district.



July

11th Thirteen years ago, Hull was nominated the worst place to live in the UK. It took the top spot in the book Crap Towns: the 50 Worst Places To Live In Britain. ‘The silent threat of violence hangs in the air, along with the smell from the chocolate factory. Chocolate factories, by the way, don’t smell of chocolate, they smell of death’ it wrote. The smell has gone and Hull has been awarded UK City of Culture 2017. People who couldn’t wait to leave Hull, will be queuing up to get in. Now in its second year, the Hull International Photography Festival (HIPFest) will be a key event and I’m delighted to join photographers John Bulmer, Frieze Janssens, Ami Barwell and Matt Finn as a patron of the festival.

16th “What do you feel you are charting?” “What did you learn about the British?” “What do you think the local authorities should do?” “Was it difficult taking pictures of drunk people?” The questions from the RTL TV interviewer come fast. The British Abroad book has been published and is generating good media interest: The Sunday Times magazine publish ten pages of pictures; the Daily Mail post it online. VICE publish an interview and I chat live on the radio to Sean Moncrieff from Ireland’s Newstalk 106-108FM to a potential 250,000 listeners. I try not to think of today’s potential 12 million German TV viewers. As the camera picks up cutaways from around my studio (desk at the end of my bed) I consider if I should remove the half empty Cristal Vodka head, discarded bottles of wine, beer cans and Soviet paraphernalia.

A version of this feature first appeared in volume 4 issue 3 of Hungry Eye magazine available to purchase here

All my books can be purchased here

Saturday, 7 May 2016

ROKAS

Fashion photographer Rokas Darulis crunches his 6ft 5inch, 93KG frame into a solid crouch, crams the Canon MKIII firmly to his eye under his black Criminal Damage snapback cap, depresses the shutter and releases a rapid rattle of frames through a 50mmm lens. “Perfect, really good, just keep moving like that” is the quiet but firm advice he delivers to 25 year old Belgium born model, Yannick Abrath, as he fluidly moves in front of Darulis’s lens, moves  Abrath has honed over a six-year career working in the industry. Darulis, who wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of a fashion magazine himself, shoots fast: no gimmicks no assistant, no fuss. He has to shoot fast, this street that runs parallel to London’s Waterloo Bridge is busy; a mixed-race family with orange balloons from the Giraffe restaurant chain tied to a pushchair bobble on past. Duck Tour amphibious trucks grumble menacingly close to Darulis’s Tamrac bag plopped by the side of the pavement and a blonde-haired dwarf in a green dress wobbles quickly towards the Hayward Gallery.
 

I graduated from the University of Derby in 1995 with a first class honours degree in photography and moved swiftly to London; two years on the dole followed, sponging off my parents and scratching around for extra images to bolster my portfolio. Fourteen years later, Lithuanian born Darulis, graduated from Middlesex University with a first-class honours degree in photography; in his first year out of university working as a professional, commissions for magazines Pravda (in Lithuania), Monika and Tank were completed. He shot for commercial client Svyturys Beer and seven days a week for the British online fashion and beauty store ASOS. He was asked to shoot tests for Elite model management agency, a request that could have become a formulaic, factory produced series of images. They are not. Darulis’s Portraits of Girls in my Studio (the studio being a small corner of his rented apartment) are exquisite, each shot crafted with the aspirational professionalism of Irving Penn, the skill of Richard Avedon, the eye of Peter Lindbergh and the mood of Paolo Roversi. Elite were impressed enough to start paying him £30 per model, then £70 per model, then £175 per model.

It’s the Portraits of Girls in my Studio and his Seaside Stories images that convinced me, in 2012, to curate and commission his first UK solo show at White Cloth Gallery. The exhibition remains one of the most fondly remembered and talked about by those who caressed their eyes across it. 6ft prints of chisel-chinned men crying, towered down on dark, moody prints of sultry men sucking back cigarette smoke. Square formatted chaps with sculpted moustaches bristled alongside semi-naked young women folded into fur coats or stretched out across crisp cotton bed sheets wearing sheer white panties.




If you can take such spontaneously delicious shots at the seaside of your friends there has to be potential. It helps if your friends are spontaneously delicious and your girlfriend is the Lithuanian born model, Julija Steponaviciute aka Step. Represented by Storm model management (their website reliably informs) Step has a height of 5’ 10.5” (179.07cm), has green eyes, light brown hair, 32” bust, 34.5” (87.63) hips, 24” (60.96cm) waist, dress size UK 8 and wears a UK 6 shoe. She has modelled for Italian GLAMOUR, Elle France, Fashion Gone Rogue magazine and Damernas Vald Sweden among others. Darulis and Step have been together over four years and she has been successful enough in those years, to buy outright, a 98 square metre apartment in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnuis.

©Rokas Darulis

Darulis was born in the small town of Siauliai, the cyclops eye of Lithuania. He was four years old when his country officially gained independence from the Communist Soviet Union. This afforded him the opportunity to put down his wooden toys and pick up exotic imported fruits rich in colour and flavour, that the iron curtain had denied him. “Exotic fruits such as…?” I ask him. “The banana!” he exclaims triumphantly pointing into the air. In search of more exotic fruit, or perhaps, more likely, in search of better paid work across the free world, his diplomat parents took him to Dublin and Chicago before he was sent back to live on his grandparents' farm. On his arrival, his grandfather gave him an old Soviet KIEV 35mmm camera to play around with and Darulis was on his way. When recently giving a talk about his career to date, at the Lithuanian equivalent of London’s Excel centre, 800 people turned up to hear him. That probably makes him one of Lithuania’s most famous sons alongside Zydrunas Savickas (below), who has won the country’s Strongest Man competition a record 12 times.


Balanced precariously close to the edge on the third floor balcony at the National Theatre, Darulis completes another of the required ten shots for the Korean edition of Arena Homme+ magazine and retires to take a breather and a gulp of his aloe vera mango juice. Even sat down in the boot of the silver/grey Volkswagen Transporter van he dominates: a Godzilla in the East Asian team. As the Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Dior and Pringle designer clothes chime in the breeze dangling from coat hangers around Darulis head, he flips the lid on his Mac laptop, rams a 16GB Extreme III CompactFlash card into the card reader and reviews the morning's work. The previews are beautiful and crisp, honest and enjoyable, black & white. Darulis doesn’t trust the in-camera colours. Satisfied, he springs up onto his Nike Air Max clad feet, tucks his key chain into his long black skinny jeans, neatens his white T-shirt and bounds towards the next shoot scenario.

©Rokas Darulis

A few days later, I catch up with him on the trim terrace of an Italian eatery in north London. In April 2014, he packed up his bags and left expensive London to return to live in Lithuania. Arriving back in Lithuania, he had a call inviting him to join the east London based, Saint Luke Artist Management Agency (three years after he first approached them about representation). With no need to pack his bags, he just turned back around and retraced his journey. The Saint Luke Agency, represents photographers Nik Hartley, Dima Hohlov, Alexandra Leese and Rahel Weiss; they could have their pick of more established photographers, but picked Darulis.


Since he's been on the books at Saint Luke, Darulis has been busy. Very busy. He has three to four meetings a day when he’s not shooting and has shot on assignment in Shanghai and Tokyo. His diary may be full but that isn’t necessarily reflected in his bank account. The only person that seemed to be on a salary from the Korean Arena Homme+ shoot was the van driver Dave. Darulis explains that most young fashion photographs aren’t paid for editorial assignments as most magazines are culpable of not offering a fee, Dazed & Confused and Wanderlust among them. He knows he has come far since graduating from Middlesex University but appreciates he has a long way to go. He thinks it could take another 20-30 years to achieve what photographic legends Mario Testino, Juergen Teller and Steven Meisel have achieved and then one of them would have to stop working, or die, before an opportunity to shoot for the world’s most sought-after clients would be ‘up for grabs’.

A month into a Masters Degree Darulis quit, keen to get to work,. He says that, in retrospect, would have quit a month into his undergraduate degree too, to get to work assisting, which he thinks is “the best education”. There is no plan B for this alpha male (except perhaps, playing poker) with his swimmers frame, basketball player's height, FBI Agent cool and photographic talent but with “patience, luck, working hard and being involved in everything you can” Darulis believes he will succeed, and I for one, believe him.

A version of this feature first appeared in issue 118 of Professional Photo magazine UK

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Dench Diary : February - April 2015

“How many boring books that don’t sell are you going to do with the same boring pictures. Regurgitated rubbish!” Anonymous

It’s a fair question and one I’m hoping was not posted on my blog by;

My Publisher
My Mother

The answer is probably three, for now. Bluecoat Press, who published my second book, A & E: Alcohol & England, have expressed an interest in publishing a third, The British Abroad (TBA). Bluecoat funded A & E entirely for around £9,000. They publish up to four books a year; that’s a sizeable outlay for an independent publisher. For TBA, we’ve agreed to try and raise two-thirds of the sum required through crowdfunding and choose the Kickstarter platform. With the demise of independent bookshops, if you can’t get a significant quantity of your stock in to Waterstones or Foyles, options are limited. Crowdfunding provides a valuable choice. 

 

It’s my second crowdfunding experience in three years and I’m confident of reaching the £6,000 target. I start to prepare and write a blog post; set up a British Abroad Facebook page; find snapshots from my own teenage holidays to cheap party resorts to post on social networks and secure an online feature about the book with BuzzFeed.

27th I have a falling out with cardboard cutout Dench over plans for our summer holiday. He’s keen on Kos, I’m more eager for Egypt.


March

10th I hurry past the iconic Art Deco facade of BBC Broadcasting House (with a facing of Portland Stone), across the pristine new piazza and through the blindingly bright glass covered entrance, collect my pass and press the elevator up button. Legendary BBC journalist and broadcaster, Dan Damon, strides authoritatively in to the small studio in which I’m waiting and takes the seat opposite. I am here to discuss TBA for an interview to be aired on World Update on the BBC World Service that Damon has presented for over a decade. The interview unfolds. “All fuelled by alcohol. That was part of your motivation wasn’t it?” asks Damon. Part of! It was pretty much all of my motivation but this is the BBC, and the BBC has reach! I proceed with caution and do what any self respecting booze-hound would do; I blame the parents. “The first time I ever went abroad was to the party town of Magaluf, Majorca, as a 14 year old. I was allowed a Bacardi & Coke and it was always a buy one get two free offer. I remember sitting at a table with my mum, dad and sister heaving.” Leaving the BBC I read on Twitter that BBC television presenter Jeremy Clarkson has allegedly punched a producer and consider asking Clarkson if he would write the intro to TBA book?


13th

PETER: Hi Folks!

MISGINA: Good to see you, Peter! Nice to have you here! So, what’s today’s challenge!

PETER: Today you are going to make me laugh. (pause) And you are going to make me laugh by capturing the spirit of the typical Norwegian.

MISGINA: Sounds interesting! First of all: Can you tell me; what IS a fun picture?

I turn away from Norwegian television host Misigna, look up from the script and over at the participants filming for episode three of Mobilfotografene. In each programme a task or a challenge is presented by a professional photographer (that’s me). The photographer (me) gives directions and tips on how to best solve the task. Three of the photographers (not me) are sent out alone to complete the task, and when back, the photographer (me) will review the pictures (which will be printed out), and select a winner. The winner of the whole competition will have their pictures shown outdoors on R├ądhusplassen (in front of the Town Hall). It’s a bit like Masterchef for aspiring photographers; I’m feeling more Gregg Wallace than John Torode, glance back at the script, breath in and continue….

PETER: A fun picture is an unexpected picture. A picture that makes the viewer think; that shows them something that they think they know about, but in a unique and engaging way.”

The three students are dispatched to Holmenkollen Ski Festival to capture the spirit of the typical Norwegian on their mobile phone. The results are fantastically vibrant, pin sharp colour photographs that make me smile. The results are printed out and presented on the wall of the studio; a silence descends. 

PETER: “And the winner is……” and I slowly start to count up to ten in my head.

 

17th After 18 days of palm slapping high fives and the odd head in hands low, the Kickstarter campaign target of £6,000 has been reached and breached: The British Abroad hardback photo book will be published July 2015.

21st Hungry Eye magazine have kindly let me squat in a corner of their stand at The Photography Show hosted at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. It’s a chance to experience an exciting overview of the ever-changing photographic industry, plus the chance to discover new ideas, learn the latest techniques, hear from the experts and be amazed by the latest kit and deals available from a diverse range of exhibitors. It’s also a chance for me to flog some books and sign some posters. Elinor from Wales pops by for a touch of Dench, as does Rosie. Gareth Tibbles deviates in for a chat; Matt Obrey and his infectiously happy partner swerve in for some banter and Tom Stoddart photo-bombs along to buy a book.

Olympus cameras backed TBA book with a sizeable pledge and I have a question for the man who authorised it. I find the man, predictably, at the Olympus stand where a woman is being photographed while liberally doused with paint. I ask the man the question. “Why?”. “Timing” replies the man who makes big decisions with few words. I think that clears it up and we discuss the possibility of a future collaboration.

 
 

April

8th Cardboard cutout Dench has announced aspirations to be a photojournalist; I’m both flattered and disappointed.

20th It’s the fourth anniversary of the mortar attack in Libya that took the life of Tim Hetherington. Tonight, the Frontline Club in London is hosting an evening celebrating his life. Listening to the programme of short presentations by friends, family and colleagues reflecting on Tim’s legacy, it occurs he continues to be more prolific than I am.

23rd The hooligan-working-class far right have stolen the English flag. On Saint Patrick’s Day, the river Liffey flows green through the heart of Dublin. On Saint Andrews Day, the Saltire flaps vigorously along the high roads and low roads of Scotland. The breeze of Red Dragon flags being unfurled across Wales on Saint David’s Day, can be felt in faces as far away as London. On the feast day of Saint George, the national day for England, the red cross of Saint George is barely visible. Despite over 80% of people in England feeling pride in their country, almost a third associate the cross of Saint George with football hooligans and lager louts; a quarter are put off flying the flag because of links to far right extremists like the English Defence League. Two thirds don’t even know the date of Saint George’s Day.

 

I of course know the date. It’s the day on which Rupert Brooke died. The “handsomest young man in England” perished at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915 after developing sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He was sailing with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on his way to the landing at Gallipoli. Today is the birthday of great English landscape painter, J.M.W Turner; the birthday of the greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare’s and regular readers will know, it’s my birthday. It’s time for the English to rise up and reclaim the flag, to relinquish the shackles of shame and regain their red cross to bear. I jump out of bed determined to strike out across London and photograph evidence of a red cross renaissance to present to the government and lobby for a public holiday; then I feel a bit dizzy so get back into bed for another hours detoxing doze.

Disembarking the overground at Stratford, east London, I walk south towards West Ham then bank west through Bow, Mile End, Whitechapel and Brick Lane where I stop to refuel with a lamb Biryani before continuing on to Battersea via Sloane Square and a quick toilet stop at The Saatchi Gallery. During the journey I encounter no spontaneous Saint George’s Day celebrations.

24th I take cardboard cutout Dench to a charity fundraiser at The Alex, Crouch End, in an effort to reconcile our differences.


25th Aha! I knew it.Today there is a celebration in recognition of Saint George. Arriving at the Feast of Saint George in Trafalgar Square (the square that commemorates a very English naval victory), I replay the video message delivered by the dazzlingly bonkers Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, inviting everyone to;

“A celebration of all the great things about England” including;

“Traditional English dishes of all kinds”; I opt for the Indian inspired chicken of Mr Singh

“Traditional English sporting activities”; I hoop a duck and dislodge a coconut with my shy.

“Traditional English music”; I tap my thigh to the sounds of the Crystal Palace Brass Band and The Beatles sound-a-likes performing hits from hit musical, Let It Be.

Traditional English Tea; I attend a talk about tea history in the Tea Tent with Jane Pettigrew, as she unfolds the story from tea's first arrival into the London docks in the 1650s to today's Bubble Tea Shops in Soho and tea dances in Spitalfields Market.

Working the throng, I talk to Vitoria from Russia and Juan Ignacio from Spain. Tyler from the USA and Marta from Italy. I hang out with Alina from Switzerland who is nibbling an Eton Mess purchased from the Meringue Girls and Constanza from Chile, munching a scotch egg from The Pie Cart. I photograph Miyu from Japan and hand a flag of Saint George to Thiago from Argentina and encourage him to wave it. Thiago hands back the flag and exits Trafalgar Square.

 

26th It’s the day of the London Marathon (LM). The preparation has been gruelling: waking up early; cooking extra meals; washing sweat saturated running kit and extra childcare duties. It’s been worth it and allowed my wife Michelle to concentrate on her training schedule and raising over £5,900 for the Stroke Association.

Despite living in London for nearly 20 years, the only time I’ve  witnessed the LM must have been in 1986 after a four hour train journey with my parents and sister Jennifer from our home town of Weymouth. You couldn’t walk between the train carriages back then, confined to looking out of the window, rereading comics, sucking on barley sugar sticks and asking; “how many more stops”. The reason we were going to this particular LM was that my maths teacher, Mr ‘Speedy”’ Clark, was participating, a reason I could never calculate as no one was particularly fond of Mr 'Speedy' Clark. We found a space along the route and watched the Mars sponsored Marathon pass, reaching out a hand towards Jimmy Savile and cheering along Bernie Clifton ‘riding’ Oswald the Ostrich. Afterwards, the choice was to eat, or visit Madame Tussauds - family Dench couldn’t afford both. We voted to eat and spent the rest of the day clapping runners long after the roads had reopened and taking photographs of the Mount Street sign in Mayfair, the name of the street on which we lived in Weymouth.

Vaguely remembering the LM drill, I dress myself and daughter Grace in layers, pack various snacks, gather some friends and head to a spot on the Embankment in front of the splendid Somerset House. I show the very tall man who turns up to block our view a picture of my wife. “She’s dressed as Wonder Woman, if you see her coming, let me know”. The very tall man says he can see Wonder Woman. It’s not my wife (or the race has been very unkind). An uncle texts to say he’s just seen Michelle overtake celebrity Chris Evans on the BBC’s television coverage. Formula one racing driver Jenson Button motors past, followed in a blink of an eye, by Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey Russel, several more Wonder Women, a Dalek, a woman framed as the Mona Lisa, Jesus nailed to a cross, a telephone, the Honey Monster, a large ear and lots of men called Dave - much to the annoyance of my friend Dave. After two hours of gobbling Jammy Dodger biscuits, fruit juice cartons and Violet Creams, my wife runs past with a quick wave to the family.

 

27th I appreciate football chat can be tiresome, please indulge me or skip this paragraph. Tonight my team, AFC Bournemouth, secured a place in the first tier of English football for the first time in their 116 year history. I’ve been a supporter for 26 of those years enduring away days to the pits of Portsmouth and Leeds and wet nights on the terraces at Southend and Wycombe. I don’t have Sky Sports TV so watch the penultimate match of the season (home against Bolton) at Sue and Dave’s house. As a photojournalist I’ve experienced many extreme emotions; tonight was unique. After a reasonable intake of beer, and wine, and vodka, I return home too excitable to sleep and (according to my wife) drink for a further three hours, arms aloft, swaying in the corner of my kitchen whispering “we did it” while replaying tunes from the CD, The Very Best Club Anthems …Ever! In the morning, I log on to Facebook, change my status to ‘in a relationship’ (with AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe) and check the seat number on my ticket for the final game of the season away to Charlton Athletic that Geoff, my brother-in-law traded favours to acquire; right game, wrong end.

A version of this feature first appeared in volume 3 issue 3 of Hungry Eye magazine available to purchase here

The British Abroad and all my other books can be purchased here