Notes on Peter Dench ‘England Uncensored’
Peter Dench’s ‘England Uncensored’ is perhaps a slightly misleading title in that it implies we are all like that when the covers are off. Not true of course but I realise it isn’t really his aim, but it does largely go along with his idea of a ‘humorous approach with an underlying social commentary’. Apart from one or two where the people depicted have had a bit too much to drink, there isn’t really anything here that I would expect the subjects to be embarrassed about. Most are quite charming in fact and often do have something to say about us as a nation. His project ‘Alcohol & England’ takes this further as the humour slowly becomes more of a warning.
Like Martin Parr, to whom he has often been compared (not least by himself), it may be that his work would be criticized by some viewers for adopting a sneering tone towards his subjects. I’m not among them here; it feels to me like quite an honest depiction. Several of his photographs in ‘England Uncensored’ lead the viewer towards an appreciation of cultural and racial integration. Others depict hen or stag parties and suggest the English practise gender equality when it comes to letting off steam. Older people laughing, relaxing, snogging even, so that having fun is not just the preserve of youth.
Is it ethical to photograph people like this? Absolutely yes; his subjects have (mostly) chosen to put themselves in this position. I have to assume that he has obtained all the necessary model releases for the people concerned, though one or two look as though they would have a lot of trouble reading anything never mind signing.
Coomes, P. (2012) ‘England Uncensored by Peter Dench’ In: BBC 29/02/2012 At: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/17190001 (Accessed 03/08/2020).
Alcohol & England (s.d.) At: https://www.reportagebygettyimages.com/features/alcohol-england/ (Accessed 03/08/2020).
England Uncensored (s.d.) At: https://www.reportagebygettyimages.com/features/england-uncensored/ (Accessed 03/08/2020).