Richard Dunkley shares some of his favourite shots

PUBLISHED: 14:31 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:32 22 October 2018




Pagham Harbour has inspired photographer Richard Dunkley for 20 years. Ahead of a charity event he introduces his favourite shots

Photographer Richard Dunkley spent most of his childhood holidays in Pagham Harbour. When he made the return to the UK in 2000, after 13 years living and working in the US, he found himself drawn to the landscape as a possible backdrop for his work.

“As a commercial photographer most of my life was spent in the studio,” he says. “I like location photography – those great collectors of stolen moments like Cartier-Bresson.”

His first experiment putting a dancer in an outdoor location took place while he was living in New York. “There was a wow factor,” he says. “I did some more and really got into it. Dancers are very special – they are the greatest athletes. They have to be flexible and creative. Often with contemporary dance you’re working with a pure body – it’s the next best thing to nakedness. A lot of the photos came from taking them to a location and seeing what happened.”

After more than 20 years of working with dancers in wild locations as a photographer, he has directed a film with flamenco dancer Maria Vega capturing her away from a traditional dance set-up, with some scenes shot in Pagham Harbour. Spanish Dancer, London Life is being screened in London’s Regent Street Cinema on Thursday 1 November 2018 as part of charity night The Dance Project, which will auction iconic dance photography in aid of Prostate Cancer UK. The film and a live performance will also come to Kino in St Leonards on Saturday 3 November 2018.

Richard is a fundraiser for Prostate Cancer UK after surviving a battle with the disease himself. “Someone will die from prostate cancer every 45 minutes,” he says. “From the age of 40 men need to start taking care and having the test.” The Regent Street Cinema event features prints donated by international photographers which normally sell for thousands. “In my circle of friends they all know two or three brothers or husbands who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer,” says Richard. “The first donation came from [legendary photojournalist] Don McCullin which blew my mind!”

Richard has collected together his Pagham Harbour shots under the title The Lagoon. “It was a labour of love,” he says. “I didn’t have any sponsorship – it was self-financed. My sister lives out there now – I must have walked a million miles over that place and it’s ever-changing.”

Maria Vega

Flamenco dancer Maria Vega at Pagham HarbourFlamenco dancer Maria Vega at Pagham Harbour

“This is flamenco dancer Maria Vega pictured with the cinematographer Tania Freimuth from my film. It was on the boardwalk in the lagoon – that wooden surface was perfect.”

Kate Coyne

Kate CoyneKate Coyne

“Kate taught me how to photograph dancers. She was the principal dancer with [choreographer] Michael Clark and was his muse for a long time. She’s a force of nature. This was her as a tree – she made herself part of the denuded branches.”



“This is the sort of picture you might do in a studio – I just thought it was much more interesting to do it outside. It gives it a twist. People say it’s a great piece of Photoshop – but I tell them to get that high needs four people lugging a great trampoline out there. The good thing about working for yourself is you can do something completely different.”


Rehearsal SpaceRehearsal Space

“I didn’t just photograph dancers down on the harbour. But with musicians I didn’t find it worked so well – you can’t do everything in the wilderness.”



“I wanted to take pictures of runners in the environment – I tried with cyclists but it was hard to keep up with them. It was the model who chose to run through the water – and the background is beautiful.”

Mud Dance

Mud DanceMud Dance

“Kate and I always enjoyed each other’s ideas. I had been listening to John Lee Hooker – this thumping blues and relentless acoustic guitar. I asked: ‘Can you dance to John Lee Hooker?’ and she said she could dance to anything. I didn’t often bring music out with us to shoots – dancers can remember whole scores in their heads.”



“I find this picture very haunting. I was down in this area this morning – I wanted to get a bit of air. The landscape is a bit like Dungeness – it’s all shingle, but if you go back six months later it has all changed through the action of the tides. What interests me is how the trees are all in a certain way because of the way the wind has blown them – they literally can’t survive being straight up and down, only sideways.”

Jason and Robin

Jason and RobinJason and Robin

“This was Jason Piper in a close up with another dancer called Robin – we had been doing long shots with a piece of material being blown in the wind. It shows how dancers’ bodies look – there’s almost a Grecian vibe to some of my shots of Jason.”

Good to know

Spanish Dancer, London Life is at Kino-Teatr in Norman’s Road, St Leonards on Saturday 3 November from 7.30pm. Tickets for the screening and live performance cost £20/£18 concessions/£15 students from Click here for details on the event on Thursday 1 November. For more information visit

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