Acclaimed photojournalist Peter Dench in a unique collaboration with the imaging journal Hungry Eye, brings us the collection of intimate, acute and heroically revealing insights into the lives and work of some of British photography’s most colourful characters. An instant classic, it is often hilarious, sometimes crazy, always engaging.
The content within this brand new book [Great Britons of Photography Vol. 1: The Dench Dozen] is the result of years of personal encounters between Peter Dench and twelve photographers who have shaped him professionally or personally. 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.
The book itself is a collection of interviews with leading documentary and fine-art photographers mainly from Britain but also includes a few who have become ‘British by association, such as Canadian Homer Sykes.’
I chose to go along to the exhibition as it featured many contemporary documentary photographers who use B&W or colour to complete their work. For example Martin Parr, Brian Griffin, Marcus Bleasdale and Harry Borden.
One reviewer for Amateur Photographer wrote of the book:
… the images throughout the book are well curated and nicely printed, but it’s a shame there are no captions to provide context..
To conclude, The Dench Dozen is something of a Marmite project. Dench’s fans will lap it up, and it’s refreshing to see some big names being interviewed in a different way to the usual predictable Q & A. More agnostic readers, who’ve coughed up a hefty 50 quid to learn more about top British photographers, might end up wishing for a more conventional interview approach.
A video of their interview with him can be found here.
So back to the actual exhibition curated by Peter Dench, that I saw back in February, Great Britons of Photography, which brought together the work of some of the greatest living British photographers including: Jocelyn Bain Hogg, Marcus Bleasdale, Harry Borden, John Bulmer, Chris Floyd, Brian Griffin, Laura Pannack, Tom Stoddart, Homer Sykes, Anastasia Taylor-Lind and Peter Dench himself.
All of the photographers featured in this intimate and revealing exhibition have shaped Dench in some way; sometimes professionally, more often, personally. They are glimpses into the lives and practice of some of British photography’s most extraordinary characters.
‘I understand that I live my life among extraordinary characters…I wanted to acknowledge these people, and write down my friendships with them, so that when I’m an old man sitting in the corner of a pub, I can revisit the time we had together.’
A brief synopsis of the photographers on display:
Anastasia Taylor-Lind is an English/Swedish artist with a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University. She has a background in photojournalism and has worked for leading publications all over the world on issues relating to women, population and war. Her first book MAIDAN – Portraits from the Black Square, which documents the 2014 Ukrainian uprising in Kiev, was published by GOST in the same year. Her first book, Maiden: Portraits from the Black Square, documents the 2014 Ukrainian uprising in Kiev.Taylor-Lind holds degrees in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales Newport and the London College of Communication. She is engaged with education, regularly lecturing at universities and teaching workshops internationally.
Marcus Bleasdale has spent over 15 years documenting some of the world’s most brutal wars and focused on campaigning against human rights abuses. He has been documenting these issues for Human Rights Watch and is a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine.
Using his background in business and economics, Bleasdale researches the sources of financing driving the conflicts, which usually leads to the mines, and the armed networks linked to them. Bleasdale has covered wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, Chad and Darfur, Kashmir and Georgia.
He has published three books to date: One Hundred Years of Darkness (2002), documenting life along the Congo River, The Rape of a Nation (2009), documenting the exploitation of natural resources in Eastern Congo and The Unravelling (2015), documenting the brutal conflict in the Central African Republic.
Jocelyn Bain Hogg
Jocelyn Bain Hogg began his career as a unit photographer on movie sets after studying Documentary Photography at Newport Art College. He shot publicity for the BBC, photographed fashion and now works on documentary projects, commercial and editorial assignments.
He is the author of five photographic books to date, including The Firm (2003), an astonishingly intimate view of London’s organised crime world, Idols + Believers (2006), an intensive journey into the nature of fame and today’s celebrity culture and The Family (2011), which looks again at Britain’s organised crime world in a new decade.
Brian Griffin is one of Britain’s most influential and creative photographers. Griffin’s influences are diverse, from Renaissance masters to Symbolism, Surrealism and Film Noir.
Griffin has worked with a variety of music industry clients including Depeche Mode, REM, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel and Queen’s Brian May. He has produced album covers, TV commercials, music videos and award-winning films.
In 1987, Griffin was awarded the Freedom of the City of Arles, France, and in 1989, The Guardian newspaper proclaimed him to be ‘Photographer of the Decade’.
Harry Borden is one of the UK’s finest portrait photographers and his work has been widely published. He won prizes at the World Press Photo Awards (1997 and 1999) and was a judge in the contest in 2010 and 2011. In June 2005 he was awarded a solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The gallery has more than 100 examples of Borden’s work in their permanent collection. His personal projects include a series on Single Parent Dads and Holocaust Survivors, which was shortlisted for the European Publishers Award for Photography and will be released in 2017 by Octopus. In 2014 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Photographic Society.
Chris Floyd’s work has appeared in some of the world’s most highly respected publications including The New Yorker, Harpers Bazaar, GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine and Wallpaper*. He has shot advertising campaigns for British Airways, Apple, Sony and Philips and has been selected several times for the National Portrait Gallery’s annual portrait prize.
In 2011, Chris published a project entitled One Hundred And Forty Characters. Over a period of a year he made contact with 140 people that he followed on Twitter and photographed each of them in his London studio. The project received worldwide recognition and acclaim, with features about it on the BBC, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Elle, Esquire and many other publications and websites.
John Bulmer was a pioneer of colour photography working for the Sunday Times Magazine from the very first issue until the 1970’s. Many of Bulmer’s most important assignments were abroad, but he is also acknowledged as an adroit recorder of provincial Britain.
His work has been singled out for awards by the Design and Art Directors Club and he has had pictures exhibited at the Gallery of Modern Art in New York, the Photographers’ Gallery in London, and the National Museum of Photography in Bradford
Bulmer has directed many films on travel and untouched tribes in the most inaccessible parts of the world broadcast on the BBC, Nat Geo and Discovery Channels.
Books include The North (2012) and Wind of Change (2014).
Laura Pannack’s work has been extensively exhibited and published both in the UK and internationally, including at The National Portrait Gallery, The Houses of Parliament, Somerset House, and the Royal Festival Hall in London.
In 2010 Pannack received first prize in the Portrait Singles category of the World Press Photo Awards. She has also won and been shortlisted for several other awards including The Sony World Photography Awards, The Magenta Foundation and Lucies IPA. She was awarded the Vic Odden by The Royal Photographic Society Award for a notable achievement in the art of photography by a British photographer aged 35 or under. In 2015 she judged the World Photo Press Awards Portraits Category.
Pannack often lectures, critiques and teaches at universities, festivals and workshops worldwide.
Homer Sykes is a professional magazine and portrait photographer with many years experience. He has travelled widely on photographic assignments across the world covering conflicts in Israel, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland, as well as general news in the UK.
His books include, Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (1977), re-published in 2016 with over 50 ‘new’ images, Shanghai Odyssey (2002), and On the Road Again (2002).
Sykes work is owned by many private collectors and national collections.
Tom Stoddart began his photographic career on a local newspaper in his native North-East of England before moving to London to work for publications such as the Sunday Times and Time Magazine.
During a long and varied career, he has witnessed such international events as the war in Lebanon, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the election of President Nelson Mandela, the bloody siege of Sarajevo and the wars against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
His acclaimed in-depth work on the HIV/AIDS pandemic blighting sub-Saharan Africa won the POY World Understanding Award in 2003. In the same year his pictures of British Royal Marines in combat, during hostilities in Iraq, was awarded the Larry Burrows Award for Exceptional War Photography. A year later his book iWITNESS was honoured as the best photography book published in the USA.
In the summer of 2012, Perspectives, an outdoor retrospective exhibition in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross, was viewed by 225,000 visitors at London’s South Bank.
Another review of the book/exhibition by Lowenna Waters, can be found on the Telegraph website.
What did I take away from this exhibition?
- that B&W and colour both work to capture contemporary documentary projects
- that as ever, looking at too many photographs in one hit can be sensory overload
- there are many different ways to capture images, both formally and informally
- crowd reaction can sometimes narrate the story more effectively than the subject/action
- semiotics play an important role in these images
- Captions…to caption or not to caption, in this instance with so many photographers, styles and narratives I think captions would have helped
- surrealism definitely has its place within documentary
- I now have a long list of photographers that I can look up as and when the need/desire takes me