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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

Work / Photography

“Drunkenness and debauchery!”: Peter Dench captures events of English gentility

“As my youth beat a retreat and I continued to be fired from several responsible jobs by people I was responsible for, the option reduced to photography,” explains Peter Dench on how he became a photographer. At the tender age of 19, Peter found himself, time and time again, at the library in Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design, browsing through the books of Martin Parr, Elliot Erwitt, Paul Peas amongst other photography giants. From there, he began to take photography seriously, thinking to himself: “If I can travel the world and make people laugh, then that is a fine way to live. And, if I can do all that with a drink in my hand, then that is the life for me.”

Since then, and 21 years later, Peter has had the privilege of working across 60 different countries on a range of editorial and commercial photography assignments to date. In his latest project, The English Summer Season however, Peter turns his lens back on a subject that has consistently been his “passion and home”: England. When he reached 18, Peter first became conscious of class. “Up until this point, I hadn’t realised that people with double-barrelled names patrolled the world. I didn’t understand these people, nor where they came from, but I wanted to understand them,” he says on the matter.

Documenting various events of the quintessentially English summer, from the lawns of Glyndebourne Festival Opera to the polo fields of Windsor Great Park, Peter got up close and personal to the world of the upper classes. The English Summer Season allowed me to capture the posh at play” says Peter on the series. “These once bastions of gentility and preserve of the upper classes are now more accessible to all, and have become a riotous free-for-all, often involving drunkenness and debauchery!”

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

Recently published in a new book of the same title, Peter combines self-initiated days out with a number of editorial commissions. Talking us through his process of capturing the book’s content, Peter explains: “The process is as simple as swinging my legs out of bed, with my bag of Olympus cameras over my shoulder and documenting what I see at an event from beginning, to the often very messy end.”

While out on his endeavours, as you might expect, Peter has experienced a number of novelty activities. Amidst the colourful babble of fascinators, top hats and sun burns galore, Peter’s most notable memory from the summer came one day at Royal Ascot. Prior to the horse racing event, the photographer was invited to a champagne luncheon in arguably one of the most sought after parking spaces in the world. The waiting list for the highly desirable parking space is so long, that many of the spaces have been passed down throughout several generations.

Experiencing the ins and outs of such events, Peter has designed the book to be emphatically accessible. As an affordable photography zine, he presents the viewer with a document where the pages can be torn out and stuck on the fridge, wall, or wherever else they choose. And as for his future, the photographer’s prospects change on a daily basis. From collecting empty pint glasses for loose change in the local pub, to further establishing himself as a photographer, he knows one thing for sure: Peter will continue to take photographs of the English.

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season

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Peter Dench: The English Summer Season