Friday, 7 July 2017

DENCH DIARY : June - December 2016

1st My wife and I each have a bedside lamp. When we get into bed and both lamps are left on, it’s generally agreed, that hanky panky will commence. If one lamp is left on, it’s generally agreed, that the person whose lamp it is, initiates the panky. Tonight both lights are on. Just as I get started, my wife turns both lamps off. I’m not sure how to interpret this.

18th I read of a burglary at Crouch End library. So far the Police have lifted over 350,000 fingerprints.

24th 10.30am and I’m woken by a phone call from my brother-in-law James, he sounds frantic. “What’s up Jim?” “Haven’t you heard?” “No, I’m in Norway teaching a workshop, had a bit of a late night?” “Britain has voted to leave the European Union!” I frantically get out of bed.

©Peter Dench

28th Back in post Brexit vote Britain, I’m on the train to Burnley. When Channel 4 news asked if I’d like to do a report on Brexit, I said yes. They asked if I’d like to report from my home town of Weymouth, where 61% voted OUT of Europe? I said no. They said, where would you like to report from. I said Burnley, where 66.6% of people voted OUT of Europe. Half way to Burnley, a list of questions arrive via email from my producer:

Will Brexit make life better in Burnley?
What do you think will happen to jobs and employment?
Why are people so angry with London?
Why do people hate politicians?
Are you worried about the economy collapsing?
How would you feel if life got harder if the economy collapses because of Brexit?
How proud do you feel to be British?
Do you think Britain will be stronger now?
52% voted to leave opposed to 48% who voted to remain – do you think that is a big enough win to justify leaving the EU?
What do you think about the remain voters, the 48%, being angry that leave won?
What do you think about the political fallout to Brexit?
What did you think about David Cameron resigning?
Who would you like to see as Prime Minster?
Are you worried about the future of Britain?
How would you feel if Scotland voted to leave the rest of Great Britain?
Are you worried about Britain becoming insignificant/unimportant in the world?
Can you explain what Europe does?
Why do you think the Leave side said we need to take back control of our borders?
Is immigration a problem in Burnley?
Why do you think people worry about immigration?
Do you think the vote means new immigrants won’t be able to come here?
Do you think the vote means immigrants already here will be sent home?
Would you like Burnley to have fewer immigrants?
What do you think of people saying that it’s racist to be anti-immigration?
Why do you think older people feel differently to younger folk?
Are you angry about older people voting out?
Why did fewer numbers of young voters turn out to vote?
Why don’t young people care about politics?
Are young people as worried about immigration as older people?

I try to absorb as many questions as I can, try not to think about cider, and think about what to do and where to go when I arrive in Burnley. Arriving in Burnley with Michael, the cameraman, we go to afternoon bingo at a church and join the ladies of Burnley Wood for a night of darts. We visit a gym in the ethnic Stoneyholme area and chat to the proprietor of the St James’ Cafe in the town centre. We listen to the local brass band rehearse in the community centre and to the opinions of imbibers in several working men's clubs. 48 hours after arriving in Burnley, we leave for the editing office in London


1st The five minute report from Burnley is broadcast on Channel 4 News. The people of Burnley respond.

“Your interview gave the impression that the people of Burnley are nothing more than racists. You should be ashamed of yourself, I urge you to return and interview a wider spectrum of the community and find out the real reasons 2/3 of this town voted to leave the EU.” Simon

“I have just watched your portrayal of the opinions of the people of Burnley in regards to Brexit. I have to say it's embarrassing viewing.” Jon

“I myself live in Burnley, I also voted to leave. My issue was how you portrayed the town. You chose the most deprived areas, Burnley Wood, Stoneyholme, and the town centre cafe. You chose a  family who looked unkempt, a drunk woman in a club and a young girl in a cafe and set it to music from what sounded like a Warburtons advert or Last of the Summer Wine.” Claire

©Peter Dench

And the people not of Burnley respond:

“Saw this on TV yesterday, awesome, finally news read for the people by a down to earth guy, well done.”  Mark

“Great report and photos Peter. It’s so interesting to see such a different opinion to down south.” Adam

“Watched it yesterday, thought it was really good. Well done.” Sophie

©Peter Dench

17th I have 15 Tupperware tubs and 17 Tupperware lids, none of which fit the tubs. It’s a TUPPERMARE!

20th I’m at my daughter Grace’s junior school leavers’ assembly trying not to weep as they read out their life aspirations:

“In ten years’ time I want to be at Oxford University studying psychology and the three sciences so that I can become a neuroscientist that specialises in child psychology” Hana

“In ten years’ time I see myself driving a cherry red Ferrari through America, on my way to my company’s HQ to discuss a new game that I have created for the biggest game company in the world.” Roberto

“In ten years’ time I would like to be studying quantum physics at Cambridge University. Ideally I would have visited four continents by then.” Archie

“In ten years’ time I would like to be travelling the world with all my friends. I would like to stay in luxury hotels and take lots of photographs.” Grace Dench

26th English author and former politician, Jeffrey Archer, pauses in front of the two framed photographs I have in the An Ideal For Living exhibition at the Beetles & Huxley gallery in Piccadilly, London. I I introduce myself and explain the work. He nods approvingly before moving on to the Bill Brandt and Cartier-Bresson prints on the adjacent wall.


17th Watching the Weymouth carnival, I’m pleased to see a resurgence in the number of Majorette troupes involved, it’s a tights highlight #Tilight

19th I crack a can of Strongbow cider and sit down to watch the Olympic women’s rhythmic gymnastics #Tilight. The can of Strongbow proudly displays STRIKE GOLD TEAM GB on the side. I drink enough cans to believe, if I wasn't a photographer, I too could have been a rhythmic gymnast.

21st. I’m invited to do one of those online tests; if you were a superhero, what super hero would you be? I don’t need to do the test, for I am CIDERMAN, powers include; the ability to forget, blur reality, stay in bed all day, fill the recycle bin and treat gout.


2nd The fragrant lovely in front leans left towards the man next to which she is sat and hisses; “What the F**K was THAT!”. I lean forward and say; “That, my dear, was DENCH DOES DALLAS.” Her bewilderment is understandable. Preceding screenings in Campo Santo, at the Visa pour l’Image Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France, include: Missing in Action; Homeless Women Veterans by Mary F. Calvert, a report on victims of sexual assault in the armed forces who have lost their careers and more, and Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear, a 15 year report by Paula Bronstein. The programme blurb for DENCH DOES DALLAS simply reads; ‘Welcome to Dallas, Texas, the largest urban centre in the country. Population 1.2 million.’

Jocelyn Bain Hogg (left) & Gerd Ludwig

3rd The former Magnum photo agency photographer slips beneath the water for a second time, and for a second time, I help haul him back to the surface. It’s 7am and the pool party, well more of a pond party, has plateaued. A dozen guests begin to drape themselves over various loungers and flirt with sleep. I check through the stack of polaroids that have been taken during the evening, remove any incriminating ones, stuff them in my pocket and stride towards my hotel. Three hours later, I pull on a tiny pair of white Fila shorts and stroll out of the hotel for brunch and a beer, followed by a beer and a swim at the beach (where I’m both pleased, and concerned to see the former Magnum photo agency photographer heading into the sea). I head from the beach to my book signing of DENCH DOES DALLAS at La Librairie ephemere, via a supermarket to pick up a crate of beer. I sign 12 books and drink a beer with photographer, Gerd Ludwig, then take the few remaining beers to a drinks reception for my new agency, VERBATIM, before leaving for dinner and wine at Restaurant Le Sud, after which, I have a post dinner Aperol Spritz at Cafe de la Poste, then another, before heading to the hotel for a final time, stopping off for a quick beer.


4th I arrive at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie to meet Xenia Tchoumitcheva, a Russian-Swiss model, actress, blogger and entrepreneur, to photograph her for a Swiss magazine. I’m increasingly finding that the process of taking portraits has changed over the course of my career. It was generally understood that an hour was the necessary time to take a good portrait. You’d meet your subject, have a chat, get to observe and understand a bit about them, take a walk, explore some locations, collaborate. The expectation now, is an hour is too long. Xenia is impelling and dynamic, also very busy. I photograph her for eight minutes in the Brasserie garden and one minute against a wall. I photograph her taking a selfie and take a selfie with her on my phone. I take a photograph of her talking with the journalist, and the journalist takes a photograph of me with Xenia on my phone. I take a photograph of the journalist and Xenia together, on the journalists phone, and a photo of Xenia, with her phone, which she posts to her 915K followers on Instagram (without crediting me). 25 minutes after meeting Xenia, regrettably, I'm on my way home.

©Peter Dench

14th I’m about to step on stage to talk at the Association of Photographers 2016 awards, the organiser turns to me and asks, “What’s your surname?” I’ve had better motivational moments. “It’s DENCH!”


16th I listen to a report on BBC radio about online bullying and watching pornography prevalent among 11 year olds. I have an 11 year old and immediately check her internet history. The most recent searches include: 6 Recipes to Make Slime for Kids; Cute Cartoon Quotes; Cute Cartoon Animals; Paper Chase School Supplies and Cartoon Love Heart Friends. I am relieved.

25th THE DENCH DOZEN: Great Britons of Photography Vol. 1 is published. Enthused, I start to source participants for Vol. 2. I’ve never met RANKIN and never met anyone who likes him. This can’t be right, RANKIN has charmed many respected artists to pose in front of his lens. I think he’s a good place to start and ping an email to his office.

“…. perhaps I could accompany RANKIN on a shoot, see how he works, what makes him tick. I could assist, or probably best if I second assist, my early career helping out Donald Christie and Steve Pyke among others, wasn’t lauded! … They’re more observation, conversation pieces than a straight Q&A, think ‘Through the Keyhole’ for photographers. Would RANKIN be interested in this?”

The office asks: “What is the deadline?” I explain the last book took five years from pen to press. “Five years.” I reply. The office responds: “Unfortunately Rankin’s schedule is just to busy at the moment to take part. Thank you for thinking of him.” I think of him and what it must be like to be  busy for five years.

©Peter Dench

5th German daily newspaper DIE ZEIT have commissioned me to photograph reigning Formula 1 world champion, Nico Rosberg, at an hotel in Mayfair, London. The meeting is scheduled for 11.30am and I arrive at 11am and scout the outside for potential locations, it’s a glorious crisp and sunny winter morning. Just before noon I’m introduced to Rosberg and say “Hello, I’m Peter Dench”. Rosberg says “Hello, why are we speaking English”. I think it’s going well and enunciate my plan. The press liaison officer accompanying Rosberg, informs me that he’s reluctant for Rosberg to be photographed outside, on account of his fame an inevitable public mobbing so I direct Rosberg into the restaurant. 18 minutes later I grab some of Rosberg’s left over chips and head home.

25th J D Wetherspoon pubs do a gift card. It’s a one stop shop for family Dench this Christmas.

 All my books can be purchased here

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