Dave Hendley.

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Piccadilly Line 2013. © Estate of Dave Hendley.

David Secombe:

There are times when The London Column feels like an obituary strand; and last week saw the death of another contributor, one who also happened to be a very dear friend.

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King’s Cross Station, 2011. © Estate of Dave Hendley.

Dave Hendley was many things: a photographer, a DJ, teacher, printer, art director, reggae fanatic, mountain bike aficionado, snappy dresser, record collector, record label founder, Leica collector, writer, seaside-dweller, bon viveur … yet he was never a dilettante, he was fully authentic in every one of his diverse activities. I knew him through photography. We were first introduced, sometime in the late 1980s, by our mutual friend the late John Driscoll, as we belonged to a scene that centred around the darkrooms, photographic suppliers and pubs of Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. At that time Dave was a printer and sometime freelance photographer. I didn’t learn the extent of his involvement in music until much later, when he casually showed me a box of prints of portraits of reggae stars that he had taken in the 1970s. It turned out that this unassuming, softly-spoken Londoner was a very considerable force in the reggae scene and played a key role in the dissemination of the music. (Radio 1 Extra played its own tribute to Dave a few days ago, a broadcast that filled a few gaps in my understanding of his musical activities.)  Dave’s Jamaican portraits are wonderful and are their own testament to his devotion to reggae.

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It took me a while to catch up with developments but I gradually realised that Dave Hendley had become one of the most contented people I knew. His life on the north Kent coast struck me as nothing short of idyllic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look so totally at peace as Dave was in his garden in Tankerton – or, for that matter, in the bar of the Continental Hotel. And, finally, his work was gaining wider recognition. His Jamaican portraits are being collected into a book and his street photography is being celebrated in Japan, and both of these developments were sources of great satisfaction to him.

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In St.James’s Park (early 1970s). © Estate of Dave Hendley.

Amongst Dave’s thousands of photos, this particular one is a special favourite of mine. A picture of two men on a bench in a London park that shows what photography is capable of revealing, or appearing to reveal. We don’t know what the actual relationship between the two men in the photo really is but Dave gives us a novel’s worth of speculation. It manages to be poignant, sinister and hilarious all at the same time, a Pinter play condensed into a twelve by nine and a half inch print.

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Dave Hendley in the ‘Tokyo Camera Style’ pages of Nippon Camera, Dec. 2014.

Everyone who knew Dave will have their favourite image of him: working in a darkroom maybe, teaching at St Martin’s certainly, DJ-ing somewhere, riding his bike in the Forest of Blean, wandering a city street with Leicas at the ready, and so on. But whatever he was doing he was always reliably, quintessentially Dave, and he was always exhilarating company. For me he was simply the perfect English gentleman. Decent, level headed, kind, understatedly elegant and elegantly understated, knowledgeable but unpretentious, modest but capable, gently melancholic yet wildly enthusiastic, local yet international – constantly, uniquely himself, whether he was in Tokyo, Trenchtown or Tankerton. He even lived in a bungalow, and you can’t get more English than that. We need more like him in the world; but of course there could only ever be one.

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The Day They Left.

Surrey Steps, off Strand Lane, north of the Embankment, November 2014.

Surrey Steps, off Strand Lane, north of the Embankment, November 2014.

… by Tim Wells:

The first thing I noticed was that the beigels had gone

and there was a run on fried egg sandwiches.

Katie Hopkins became a nice person.

The free newspaper on the bus had actual news in it.

It turned out there actually was £350 million for the NHS.

Farage said he’d buy those of us left a pint,

which was fortuitous ‘cos Wetherspoons had cut their prices.

No more forelock tugging for us, Squire,

‘cos what with all the empty houses

each and every one of us got a luxury flat,

each of which came with a rent cap.

The radio could have been better. They’d decided no Kate Bush,

no P.J Harvey but there was a hell of a lot of Coldplay.

Employment was a doddle. I’d always wanted to be a doctor,

or a plumber, or have me very own fish and chip shop,

and these days all the education was free so it was

certificates all round. Gilt edged ones with a crinkle cut at that!

At the job my working day had been halved, pay doubled,

holidays extended. The light began to dawn.

© Tim Wells. Written after the United Voices of the World picket of 100 Wood Street, 29 June 2016.

Photo © David Secombe.

Welcome to Britain …

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South Croydon. © David Secombe 2010.


A Quiet Pint On Massacre Street.

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View from the saloon, south London, 2016. © David Secombe.

Recently overheard in a south London pub:

Have one, come on, have one. Look, I’m celebrating, I was acquitted. This afternoon, yeah. Before lunch I’d been in the witness box and they were jumping all over me, I didn’t land a blow. Felt like a right wanker. And I was looking at doing four years. I was up before this judge who was an MP – yeah, an MP, stuck up git, probably a nonce, he’ll be up in court himself next week. I tell you who he looked like, Pluto – Pluto the dog. Did you see my barrister? She was all right, nice looking she was. Put her hand on my arm she did. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, after lunch the jury was ready to come in and everything and then the prosecution said the CCTV didn’t work. That’s their case dead in the water. So I was acquitted.  [looks at racing on pub TV] My jockey’s an idiot – look at that div, looks like his bollocks haven’t dropped. Looks like a rent boy.  Anyway, thrown out it was, it was thrown out, the fucking CCTV didn’t work. I’m thinking of compensation. Go after them I will, yeah. I’ve got letters about my loss of hearing. Here, I’m selling this phone. It’s fucking immaculate, no scratches on it or nothing, I mean I did manage to drop it in the slop bucket behind the bar, but you’d never tell. Where is this cunt anyway?

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Boarded-up pub, Bermondsey, 2010. © David Secombe.

See also: A Fragment of Bar Life.


Bruce Davidson, London, 1960.

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© Bruce Davidson; courtesy Magnum Photos and ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica.

D.S.: In 1960, the young American photographer Bruce Davidson made a lengthy trip around England and Scotland. He was on a magazine assignment, and his itinerary is a catalogue of characteristic British tropes: you get the seaside, old ladies playing bowls, fox hunting, the pre-clearance terraced streets of Northern towns, the absurdities of class distinctions, etc. But this visit was obviously important for other reasons: it’s as if he’s still trying to define his own style, which may account for the slightly shy, hesitant manner of some of the pictures. He seems more obviously in charge of his material when he returned later in the 1960s to photograph Welsh miners, but there is a touching and empathetic quality to these early British pictures, a terrific sense of time and place, and a genuine feeling for lives being lived.

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© Bruce Davidson; courtesy Magnum Photos and ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica.

Inevitably, those of us who weren’t alive in the ‘pre-Beatles, the black and white 60s’ (did George Melly coin that term?) mediate the era through film and pop culture; hence, for me, a couple of these pictures have a Pinteresque quality. The sailor  – The Pool of London still a working port in 1960 – and the bored girl in the pub could be bit players in The Servant, swelling the chorus of murmured non-sequiturs as James Fox orders another one at the bar. ‘I had a bit of bad luck today. A real bit of bad luck. It’ll take me a while to get over it.’ At any rate, it is a classic image of a failed bid for excitement, of last drinks drained or forgotten. It’s closing time and she’s still not having any fun. The girl in the Soho club (has to be Soho, look at those pin-ups) is also up for a bit of fun, but she looks like she has an invite to go on somewhere else: The King’s Road maybe, where Dirk Bogarde is throwing a party.

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© Bruce Davidson; courtesy Magnum Photos and ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica.

On the other hand, the image above seems eerily modern; it is one of a famous pair of photos taken during a long London night Davidson spent in the company of rootless young people much like himself. As a schoolboy, I remember an English textbook that used this image and invited pupils to make up their own story about the scene. Davidson has already given us a bit of detail about this encounter, but the picture still has currency as contemporary comment. It could have been taken last night.  These young people might be pioneer travellers but they aren’t gap year tourists. They are timeless strangers navigating another huge impersonal city on an endless journey through huge impersonal cities. No return tickets available. The melancholy of freedom.

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© Bruce Davidson; courtesy Magnum Photos and ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica.

After that, the photo of the nannies in Hyde Park brings one up sharp, reminding us how long ago these images were made.  These women are old enough to have lost their sweethearts in the Great War, which might account for their choice of occupation. And those ‘baby carriages’ really look like they should be drawn by ponies.

For me, Davidson’s British pictures of this time evoke that nostalgia for something we haven’t experienced, something familiar yet impossibly distant. They have all the atmosphere and romance of travel, and all the greyness of English domestic life. (My father always commented on how grey things seemed in the 1950s – and that decade was conspicuously good to him.) Davidson’s shows us England just before it shed its post-war veil. Things were about to get a lot livelier, but who in these pictures knew? Maybe that girl in the club.

Thanks to ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica. ROSEGALLERY is exhibiting photographs by Bruce Davidson, Evelyn Hofer, Martin Parr and other other artists at Photo London, Somerset House, 19- 22 May. (Stall B7.) Bruce Davidson’s England/Scotland 1960 is published by Steidl.

See also: Pinteresque, London Perceived.

 

 


At Home With The Furries.

From the series" At Home With The Furries" Throughout the year furries dress up in costume or fur-suit inspired by anthropomorphic characters from cartoons, comic strips, myths and videogames. The people inside the suits are by day computer programmers, engineers, mortgage brokers, lecturers even fursuit makers. Most furries have an affinity with animals but some also like to role-play or fursuit for fun. Over the course of a few years, I gained the trust of the furries in the UK and some of their members allowed me to visit them at home, these photographs were taken all over the country. Contact tom@tombroadbent.com for licensing rights

Moon, a deer in Sheffield. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.

From Wikipedia entry Furry fandom:

The furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at furry conventions.

From the series" At Home With The Furries" Throughout the year furries dress up in costume or fur-suit inspired by anthropomorphic characters from cartoons, comic strips, myths and videogames. The people inside the suits are by day computer programmers, engineers, mortgage brokers, lecturers even fursuit makers. Most furries have an affinity with animals but some also like to role-play or fursuit for fun. Over the course of a few years, I gained the trust of the furries in the UK and some of their members allowed me to visit them at home, these photographs were taken all over the country. Contact tom@tombroadbent.com for licensing rights

Sticks the fox and Terry, Wimbledon. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.

D.S.: Tom Broadbent has been photographing members of the ‘furry’ community for the past seven years, following a chance meeting with a six-foot wolf called Smirnoff. Tom speaks warmly about the furries and their acceptance of him is fully evidenced by the photographs. Furries inhabit a world of elaborate fantasy, albeit one with a curiously quotidian aspect. They might be in revolt from the mundane but they find release in performing ordinary tasks in the personas of their animalistic alter-egos (or fursonas).

I suppose you could call it a form of living theatre, or lifestyle as theatre. As Tom says, ‘There’s no one reason why people identify as furry; and in terms of ‘costume play’ (or cosplay) most of them create their own characters, drawing on a wide range of Fantasy and Sci-Fi influences, from classic Disney cartoons to Star Wars’.

 

From the series" At Home With The Furries" Throughout the year furries dress up in costume or fur-suit inspired by anthropomorphic characters from cartoons, comic strips, myths and videogames. The people inside the suits are by day computer programmers, engineers, mortgage brokers, lecturers even fursuit makers. Most furries have an affinity with animals but some also like to role-play or fursuit for fun. Over the course of a few years, I gained the trust of the furries in the UK and some of their members allowed me to visit them at home, these photographs were taken all over the country. Contact tom@tombroadbent.com for licensing rights

Marshall, a border collie, Woking. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.

In Tom’s photographs, we often see his furry subjects in their domestic settings. The ‘at home’ scenes are as sweet as one could wish: a rabbit tending his garden in east London, a Glam Rock border collie playing his Les Paul in his bedroom on a 1960s estate in Woking, and so on. These images speak of tidy, ordered lives which just happen to incorporate a bit of dressing up. And although the fetish undertow is always present to some degree (bit of a touchy subject for the furry community) that isn’t the top note here: Tom’s furry friends are endearingly wholesome.

 

From the series" At Home With The Furries" Throughout the year furries dress up in costume or fur-suit inspired by anthropomorphic characters from cartoons, comic strips, myths and videogames. The people inside the suits are by day computer programmers, engineers, mortgage brokers, lecturers even fursuit makers. Most furries have an affinity with animals but some also like to role-play or fursuit for fun. Over the course of a few years, I gained the trust of the furries in the UK and some of their members allowed me to visit them at home, these photographs were taken all over the country. Contact tom@tombroadbent.com for licensing rights

Edward Fuzzypaws shares a moment with labradoodle Teddy, Richmond. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.

Furries are an international phenomenon, but there is a quintessential Englishness about the activity as presented in Tom’s photos. These characters might be bit players in an unproduced film by Alan Bennett or Victoria Wood. But what makes Broadbent’s pictures more than just another showcase for native eccentrics are the moments where the photographer accompanies his subjects through the looking glass into the realm of private myth. That’s when the child-like delight in costume gives way to something wilder.

From the series" At Home With The Furries" Throughout the year furries dress up in costume or fur-suit inspired by anthropomorphic characters from cartoons, comic strips, myths and videogames. The people inside the suits are by day computer programmers, engineers, mortgage brokers, lecturers even fursuit makers. Most furries have an affinity with animals but some also like to role-play or fursuit for fun. Over the course of a few years, I gained the trust of the furries in the UK and some of their members allowed me to visit them at home, these photographs were taken all over the country. Contact tom@tombroadbent.com for licensing rights

Bhavvels Bunny, Barking. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.

A nod to Lewis Carroll isn’t inappropriate, given that the furry domain shares some of the dreamy charm, transformative power and moral complexity that he represents. That seems obvious enough. But the image of the stag invokes the iconography of the pre-civilized mind and a time when woods were feared and venerated. This stag is a forest god; one that might be worshipped as part of the sacred, time-honoured rituals of Summerisle.

 

Fangorn, a Jedi tiger sits in his living room, Swansea From the series" At Home With The Furries" Throughout the year furries dress up in costume or fur-suit inspired by anthropomorphic characters from cartoons, comic strips, myths and videogames. The people inside the suits are by day computer programmers, engineers, mortgage brokers, lecturers even fursuit makers. Most furries have an affinity with animals but some also like to role-play or fursuit for fun. Over the course of a few years, I gained the trust of the furries in the UK and some of their members allowed me to visit them at home, these photographs were taken all over the country. Contact tom@tombroadbent.com for licensing rights

Fangorn, a Jedi tiger, in his living room, Swansea. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.

As for the Jedi tiger, he inhabits a different galaxy to the one you or I live in. He’s about to climb into his own Swansea-moored spaceship and leave for somewhere very far away. Nothing cosy about him. And I am afraid that stag will come to stalk me in my dreams.

Tom Broadbent‘s Furry portraits may be seen at FIX Photo, part of Photo London, at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse St., SE1 9PH, until 22 May. Thanks to Laura Noble.

 

 

 


Corgi and pipes.

HM the Queen at her desk, Buckingham Palace, Feb.1991

HM the Queen at her desk, Buckingham Palace, February 1991.

 

DS: About a thousand years ago (1991) I spent a few months working with a BBC film crew – it really was film – making a documentary to mark the Queen’s 40th year on the throne. The camera/sound team of Philip Bonham-Carter and the late Peter Edwards, and the director  Edward Mirzoeff (a sometime contributor to this blog) – had formidable reputations. I did not have a formidable reputation. I was hired in haste, the production already rolling, to take ‘stills’ and not get in anyone’s way. Naturally, I got in everyone’s way – most often in the viewfinder of Philip’s Arriflex – but somehow managed to avoid being fired.

 

Footman laying places for 200 guests prior to a state banquet in honour of Polish premier Lech Walesa, St George's Hall, Windsor Castle, May 1991

Footman laying a table for 200 guests, St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle, May 1991.

 

My chief recollection of the project is fear: fear of getting in Philip’s shot, fear of missing my shot (the sound-proof camera housing I had to use denied easy access to the camera), fear of under-exposure in huge rooms lit by dim lamps, fear of saying the wrong thing … I even discovered a new kind of fear: that my Moss Bros penguin suit was about to collapse in front of royalty. At Windsor Castle photographing a state banquet I suddenly felt the elastic in my waistband give out; my trousers began heading south just as Lech Walesa was greeting the Queen Mother. The nightmares still recur.

 

HM the Queen at her desk, Buckingham Palace, Feb.1991

 

I finally overcame my fears and managed to complete the project, salvaging some dignity in the process. Looking back, these images are souvenirs of a time that has become so distant. Who would have thought that 1991 would seem like such an innocent time?

Anyway, this blog post constitutes The London Column’s 90th birthday greeting to Her Majesty. Please be upstanding, and cue music:

 

Piper playing a morning serenade at Buckingham Palace.

Morning serenade at Buckingham Palace, June 1991.

 

All photos © David Secombe.


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