Exercise: Peter Dench England Uncensored

England Uncensored

Read the article on England Uncensored by the BBC Editor Phil Coomes:
bbc.co.uk/news

Dench talks about his “humorous approach with an underlying social commentary”
What do you think of this approach ? Does it work? What are the ethical issues?

England Uncensored is reminiscent of Martin Parr’s The Last Resort which “still has the power to shock and amuse all at the same time” (bbc.co.uk 29/2/12). Parr’s brash and colourful photography had a big impact on Dench’s own working practice , something he acknowledges stating ” as a photographer I embrace that influence. I would like to think I would have arrived at the style of photography I have regardless of Parr; he certainly hastened the process and blazed a path for its acceptance as a photographic way of seeing” (bbc.co.uk 29/2/12) . Interestingly he says his own style of photography is additionally inspired by writers and comedians , including a favourite columnist of mine Tim Dowling.

Dench’s candid and frequently humorous images can also be positively cruel .His website provides links to a vast variety of his work , the images are both funny , some made me laugh out loud , but are also strangely depressing at times. His observational skills are clearly well honed in capturing the absurdity of everyday life and “ in an increasingly litigious era where lawyers will take up their cudgels on behalf of anyone who feels they may have been offended , violated or harassed by a photographer” (Howarth & McLaren 2010 p.g11 ) .Furthermore he “makes no attempt to conceal the fact he is a photographer……shooting wide and as close as possible” (photography monthly 24/11/10) .

The illusion of a green and pleasant land is shattered , the images provide a window for viewers to observe a less than genteel vision of England in the 21st Century. The morality of publishing images of individuals captured in less than ideal behaviour is a complex issue yet despite my discomfort at some of the images I don’t feel Dench has overstepped ethical boundaries or is making a judgmental comment on the subjects . Whilst I believe privacy should be respected the images were taken in public spaces and Dench did not hide the fact of what he was doing , but must admit I would not like to be caught on camera like this . Despite the initial amusement the images tell a more sombre narrative and because of the humour their impact is all the more profound.

I found this interesting article HERE . The photographer , unlike Dench , disguised himself to take surreptitious images of prostitutes , yet I feel their dignity has not been compromised despite his covert method. As photographers in public spaces are increasingly viewed with suspicion the ethical boundaries are constantly changing and whilst I personally would not be comfortable using Dench’s methods I do not disapprove it. 

References / Bibliography

Howarth , S and McLaren , S ( 2010) “Street Photography Now” . London. Thames and Hudson Ltd

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/17190001
Accessed 16/8/15

http://www.peterdench.com
Accessed 14/6/15 & 16/8/15

http://www.photographymonthly.com/Features/photo-zone-2010/street-photography-peter-dench
Accessed 16/8/15

Accessed 17/8/15
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