The Last Word

Dean Chalkley

You’re a multi-talented artist moving seamlessly from photography to film making, which came first?

I like to move around and explore things, this has always been part of what drives me on and keeps me refreshed.

Photography came first, there is something so powerful in the still image, the more I got into it the more I realised that I could communicate about all manner of topics that interested me.

It wasn’t until several years later that I decided to make a short film. My first film was conceived very naively, I started off thinking that it would be good to do a photographic project on the high-octane world of drag racing, thought grew into making a short film shot entirely on super 8 film. It was documentary style and I shot 12hrs of footage to make a 10-minute film. No flashy cameras were used - instead I bought a few super 8 cameras from car boot sales. It became an obsession and a big project for me. Since then I’ve made short films that feature Northern Soul, Body Building and musicians - the most recent being one of the UK’s most exciting new artists, Kojey Radical. This film is currently being shown at selected festivals and galleries.

I should say that working with moving image in no way diminishes my love of the still image, if anything it has made it even stronger. I believe that in this exciting time we live in, all have relevance and it is great to be able to jump from one thing to the other; using the collected experience from one genre and apply it to others.

Funnily enough though, before photography, I really wanted to be a fashion designer, it all connected back to my love for Mod culture and the appreciation of the sartorial side of things. I studied and got a City and Guides in Clothing craft, actually got an award from legendary tailor Tommy Nutter. Even though I don’t make clothes anymore. the sense of design and structure, the understanding of fabric and the cut has filtered through into my photography too.

Music is a reoccurring theme in your photography and film, what draws you to reference music in your visual work?

The answer is very simple. I love music! Far more than just pure virtuosity, to me music is the engine of culture. It can conjure up emotions, attitude and energy. It can calm too; it can take you off into parts of your imagination that you didn’t even know existed.

How has photography and the process of a shoot changed since you first started out?

The photographic process has changed a lot with the introduction of digital, but the basic principle has remained the same. You want to say something through the medium. Some people get pretty wrapped up in the technology, that’s their thing and fair enough, but to be honest I feel that the idea is the thing that comes first and then the technical side comes second. This is a liberating point of view, so it is legitimate to shoot on all manner of cameras and phones, as long as it is considered and the choice and decision comes back through the idea.

Where do you draw your inspiration? What is something that has recently sparked your creativity?

You know inspiration comes through so many routes, all your senses can offer inspiration if only they are acknowledged. For example, yesterday I walked through Soho and the sounds, smells and sights were all inspirations. I think all of those sorts of things go in and when you focus your mind to a particular topic or even task, you can draw upon all of that. Sometimes it can be immediate though and a simple conversation can immediately produce a great picture. For example, I was photographing Loyle Carner the other day. He’s such a nice guy and we had a good chat as I was taking the pictures, we talked about all things and I asked how he got down to the shoot. He said that he rode his bike there and it was chained up outside the studio…Cut to 5 minutes later, we have Loyle Carner balancing on his beautiful Hackney Club bike and that was the featured main photograph.

You’ve photographed some of the biggest names in music and fashion including Daft Punk, Oasis and The Cure to Ray-Ban and Levis, who gave you the biggest ‘pinch myself’ moment?

Yeah you are right, there are some big names, Amy Winehouse, Paul Weller, Paul McCartney, (all the Pauls’ ? ) Beyonce, Jay-Z … It is funny to think that many of the people whose records sit in my collection have been in front of my lens, but I really look forward to working with people - not only people who are in the public eye but I like to think that all the subjects I photograph are as important as each other. It is fair to say though some people who I’ve worked with are very well known and some have had pretty big influences on my own life so I guess all I can say is that I’ve had to take a quite a few deep breaths over the years.

Do you have any major plans for 2019 that we can hear about?

There’s always stuff going on in all directions; sometimes planned and sometimes spontaneous and immediate, I’ve got some projects that are in development and will emerge later in the year but I can’t say too much about them just yet.

But here are some things I can tell you… The new Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller album ‘Soul on the Corner’ is just out featuring some of my shots, it’s a great album musically and I like the way it looks too especially the vinyl version.

PULL UP!! Harris Elliott and I (We are old friends and collaborate on Return of the Rudeboy) have begun a new radio show, it’s called ‘PULL UP!!’ on Check the station’s schedule, but currently it’s the third Thursday of each month, between 6-8pm. We are pretty excited about this as it’s an opportunity to use a different medium to bring music art and culture worldwide.

The Kojey Radical film will be screened at The Southend Film Festival on the 24th May and at Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here Festival’ in August.

I am involved in an ongoing project that started recently with The Book of Man in conjunction with the charity C.A.L.M., this is very exciting and important. I photographed over 100 Men in a day for a happening called ‘Looking for Men’. It is about community, expression and being a man; whatever each individual’s idea of being a man meant. The Book of Man is a pretty vital thing. I photographed on the Lomo instant camera as well as a Nikon and we made an instant exhibition that day as well as a unique large LED projection that contained of over 300 images from my archive many of which had never been seen before.


Who would you consider to be your biggest influences?

Ahh well, I reckon Steve Marriott would be one of the biggest influences in a musical and stylistic sense, Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus in a photographic sense. But there have been lots of people along the way that have affected what I do. Working closely with people on projects is thrilling and exciting and helps you explore the unchartered areas, so I’ve got to say working with the likes of Discordo aka Ciaran O’Shea and Harris Elliott has really expanded my mind.

Your exhibition in our store is about the 50 records that shaped your music taste, what was the first record you bought?

Yes the exhibition at the store will I think present an intriguing narrative. Some of the choices will be popular and others might be quite obscure to many. But it is the combination that then probably unlocks where I’m coming from. You’ll also see that each record has it’s own personality; they are not all brand spanking new, they have been loved, some have signs of past lives on them. They are artefacts - each one unique, even if made en masse at the time of release.

The first record I ever bought, I think it was One Step Beyond by Madness. But it wasn’t the record I wanted. I remember going into Golden Disc and asking them for the Madness record - I didn’t know the name of the track. I was expecting and wanted to get The Prince. I never took it back though.

You’re a big collector of records, where are the best spots to shop for records in London?

Although there are less record shops around today than there were years ago, it is still thriving, I go to a whole bunch of shops.

Alan’s Records in East Finchley is my local shop, he has a great selection of all music there, Alan’s really helpful too.

Love Vinyl just off Kingsland Road is great to discover new Disco funky sounds and Jazz and there is a second hand section too.

Phonica for Electronic and Soul Jazz for Funk, Reggae and more world vibes, as well as IF Records in Soho for Jazz and Soul.

There are a couple of record shops out of London that I’d like to mention too.

Carmel Records in Westcliff-on-Sea, open on Saturday afternoon. I’ve been popping in there since I was 11 years of age, Paul Despy the owner is a font of knowledge.

Hip City Records, Rob Messer’s shop in Battles Bride, is cool with Lots of Soul and Mod sounds.

Crazy Beat in Upminster. Rare Groove Soul Funk etc run by Gary Denis (DJ).

Soul Mine Records out there in Aldershot has a fantastic selection of Northern Soul for DJs and collectors.

Even just thinking about those shops makes me want to go there now. When you go, you know you’ll hear great new music (even if that is new to you, some of the sounds might be decades old) Oh I should say there is a massive record fair near Victoria at the Royal Horticultural Halls every couple of months, there are probably around 100 record dealers there.

What does Ben Sherman mean to you?

Ben Sherman is a name and brand that’s woven into the fabric of Sub-Culture.

What’s your favourite Ben Sherman piece of clothing and why?

To be continued, I’m going to the store to see what’s in the new collection so like all good things, I’m feeling like the next thing I get will be my favourite thing…

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