Dan Kendall is a documentary photographer based in London. Growing up with a music journalist for a dad, Dan has carved a career in noise media shooting for rad rags like Loud and Quiet, The Stool Pigeon (RIP), Vice and the Observer Music Monthly.
As well as straight-up commissioned portraiture, Dan embarks on personal projects where we embeds himself with enigmatic artists – like Cerebral Ballzy and Trash Talk – and captures life on the road, playing shows, recording, having fun and hanging around.
His most recent project with indie-rock four-piece Swim Deep from Birmingham has taken the form of a ‘zine called I Know I Ain’t Cool Right Now and is an intimate portrayal of the prolific West Midlands scene (sometimes coined B-Town by the pundits). We caught up with Dan to find out more.
When and why did you start making ‘zines?
This is actually the first ‘zine I’ve made. I’ve been planning to make one for a while. My friend has been bugging me to make one with all the pics I took while tour managing Cerebral Ballzy (which is still in the pipeline). But I had a massive archive of photos of Swim Deep, so when the album was near completion it seemed like a good time to get the shots out there.
What do you like about the medium?
I think the thing I find most attractive about ‘zines is the fact you can publish a body of work relatively cheaply and present it in the way you want, without being restricted by anyone else. I also like the fact that they’re affordable for people to buy and own.
What’s I Know I Ain’t Cool Right Now all about?
I Know I Ain’t Cool Right Now is basically a documentation of a year in Swim Deep’s life. I met them before they were signed and when they’d just picked up a manager. The first shots I took of them were when I went down to Birmingham to shoot their first video and potential single cover. Over the following year they went from three shy kids still working day jobs to four guys playing sold-out shows across the UK and creating (and releasing) their first album. It was really interesting for me to observe that year of their lives, and they really seemed to embrace every part of it, so hopefully that comes across in the photos.
When were the photos shot and how did you decide to present them together in this way?
The photos were taken from early 2012 up until early 2013 and were shot all over the UK and some in Europe. Over that time I’d shot them for different publications but we’d become friends so I had a lot of shots that either weren’t right for the magazines or I didn’t want to sell to them. My friend Alex Sturrock then sat down with me and helped me make the edit. After that was done I gave a draft copy to Austin (Swim Deep’s frontman) to doodle on and write stuff in.
What do you do for a living and how does zinemaking fit into your life?
I make a living by taking pictures and making films, the latter of which I do under the alias The Marshall Darlings with my filmmaking partner. I take a lot of pictures which aren’t submitted to magazines so ‘zinemaking pretty much makes sense and is a natural part of the process I guess.
Have you swapped I Know I Ain’t Cool Right Now for any other good ‘zines?
I haven’t done any straight swaps for other ‘zines at the moment but I have friends who are also photographers, so I’ve been given ‘zines by them in the past and obviously gave them a copy when I’d made mine. I suppose that means I’ve swapped it?
What are your favourite ‘zines?
I’m probably more drawn to photozines rather than classic fanzines. My friend Jamie James Medina has a series of zines called The Tourist. He’s done two issues so far, both following The XX but I think there are more in the pipeline. They have a blog where they big up other ‘zines, I think they’re pretty into them. He also gave me an amazing one which he shot in South Africa with Matt Salacuse (another great photographer) following train surfers. It’s called Sanza-Hanza. It’s pretty epic.
Alex Sturrock helped me do the edit for my ‘zine and he’s made a few in his time. He did one on Adele when she was in America on what I guess was the first tour there (the one when she won the Grammys for the first album). He got amazing access so all the photos are very honest. He also made one on these kids in London who hang out unicycling. It’s called Balance. It’s pretty funny and a bit surreal. I don’t know how he found them but he always seems to find these weird things happening before anyone else has heard of them.
Aside from friends’ ‘zines there is a publishing house called Hamburger Eyes who print some great ones. I got one recently (although I think it was made a couple of years ago) called In Passing with photos by a photographer called Michael Barolet. All the photos are people he’s encountered walking past him on the street, hence the title, but they’re all shot from the hip so the majority of the subjects don’t know they’re being photographed. It’s kind of in a similar vein to Bruce Gilden’s work but probably slightly less intrusive.
You can buy I Know I Ain’t Cool Right Now from the Swim Deep merch store.