Abroad in America

Photographs and Text by Peter Dench

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You can drive from tip to tail of the United Kingdom in less than 24 hours or cycle it in a week. The time it takes to fly from London to New York, you could be drinking in a bar in one of 50 countries across Europe, or one or two in North Africa. Newly elected British governments are quick to comment how they will work to maintain the UK’s 'special relationship' with America but to many British eyes, the bond with our neighbours west across the Atlantic is irrelevant, damaged, diminished or dead: the climate, landscape, ethnic tensions, politics, poverty and violence make it an alien nation of extremes

As a teenager in the 1980s, I voraciously consumed American soap operas Dallas and Baywatch. American movies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Porky’s, Heather’s and the National Lampoons franchise, were branded on my brain. Studying photography as a young adult, books by Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Tony Ray-Jones, alerted me that America was much more than high school pranks, toga parties and hot women running slowly. America was a much darker place, a country of conflict and change, an uneasy alliance of shifting culture and values, a region of diverging morals. As an English photographer known for my trenchant observations of my own countrymen, I recently set out on a photographic tour of America. Starting with Dallas, Miami and San Francisco, to challenge what I thought I knew of the country.

- Peter Dench