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David Franchi – Thursday, 19th November 2015
The exhibition of Peter Dench was a remarkable example of reportage about Dallas, at the Art Bermondsey Project Space, London.
A photographic exhibition, ‘Peter Dench does Dallas’ was also the launching of the new London gallery Art Bermondsey Project Space, sponsored by Olympus.
Peter Dench found inspiration in the idea he had of Dallas when he was a teenager in the 1980s. His impression of the capital of Texas was shaped by two aspects: the TV series Dallas, and the adult film Debbie Does Dallas.
Probably, Dench is not the only person in the world to have these ideas. The TV series Dallas was a famous prime- time soap opera about the Ewing family that has been broadcasted to over 90 countries and translated in 67 languages.
The film ‘Debbie Does Dallas’, instead, was a real mass phenomenon, one of the top five grossing porno movies of all time, which had sequels and spin offs. The movie was interpreted by Bambi Woods, the stage name of Debra De Santo, who had a sudden success in the Golden Age of Porn, but then disappeared. This mystery fascinated the adult industry creating a legend about Woods. What happened to her is not clear. A solution was not found even in ‘Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered’ (aka ‘The Curse of Debbie Does Dallas’), a TV documentary shown by British Channel 4 as part of The Dark Side of Porn series.
Therefore, Peter Dench chose the name of the London exhibition, at the Art Bermondsey Project Space, by playing with the title of this famous film, even though it was not shot in Dallas but in New York. And, probably, he is unaware that there is the TV series Conan, season 3, episode 94, titled ‘The Exotic Marigold Hotel 2: Dench Does Dallas’ (2013).
The trip to Texas found Dench questioning his own idea of Dallas, that not everyone there is going around with a cowboy hat and guns, and women are not ranch wives. This impression is familiar to many people in the world. However, Dallas is a more multifaceted town.
In the 13 days of his trip, Dench took images revealing that the word to describe Dallas is ‘big’. He visited the Dallas Junior Police Academy, and also the clubs on Mockingbird Lane, the main adult scene. Additionally, he made a one-day trip to the rich Southlake city and visited the Southfork ranch, location of the TV series. He walked the town and depicted all the various aspects, which are reported in the book published.
The results of his investigation are that Dallas changed a lot from the 1980s and Debbie and the Ewings are something from the past, almost unknown to young generations.
Peter Dench shot images exclusively on Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. He uses the Micro Four Thirds system.
The exhibition ‘Dench Does Dallas’ was at the Art Bermondsey Project Space, London, from 20th October until 7th November 2015.