Benjamin Dowden (BD) is a visual artist based in Bristol in the South West of the UK. Much of his work is interested in portraiture, creating portraits in film, photography and paint.
Since 2004 he has supported his own work by freelancing for the arts, creating behind the scenes documentation in both film and photography. Major clients include Sadler's Wells (London) and Aardman Animations (Bristol) as well as many theatres and dance companies. He works as a cameraman/director/
editor on jobs, bringing in help when needed.
In 2008 he began a project to document performers in film in unedited single camera takes. The films were always intended to be as pure as possible in capturing each performance and so rules were made for filming. The main rule was that the films must be unedited and that the sound must be recorded live.
Since then he has produced over 125 films with 40 performers (musicians, bands, dancers, and film makers), including Dub FX, Reggie Watts, Storyboard P, and many more.
The work has taken him to the USA, Poland, Lithuania, France, Kenya and Ireland and the results posted to his Youtube channel where they have received over 70 million views. A selection of these films can be seen on this site under 'Portrait Films'.
In 2012, as a result of the success of the channel, BD was invited to curate the main stage for the saturday line up of the Loftfest Music Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania. He took 27 artists, representing 9 acts. All the artists had previously featured on the BD Youtube channel.
Also in 2012 he produced a 50 minute documentary ' CONVOY: The Amsterdam Film ' which follows a group of musicians from the Convoy collective. The film was released in 2012 as a DVD package alongside all the Dub FX performances that had initially been made as part of the Youtube project.
In 2013 BD intends to release more longer form films, including a documentary about the Fabulous Beast Dance company making 'Rian', as well as a travelogue from Mexico, and a short about film maker Guy Sherwin. More details can be found in the 'Projects' section of this site.
(Film, expected 2013)
'Rian' means trace in Irish and is the name of an album by celebrated Irish musician Liam Ó Maonlaí. It is also the name of the dance piece inspired by the album and created by Fabulous Beast. BD spent 5 weeks with the company at the end of 2011 and shot over 50 hours of the rehearsal process and initial shows. The resulting film has been a labour of love for BD who has been wanting to make longer and more subtle documentary work. The film follows the 8 international dancers and 5 traditional Irish musicians as they play and discover the dances of 'Rian'. The film will be released in early 2013. A promo for the dance piece and film can be found on this site.
(Film, expected 2013)
For four weeks during the christmas 2011 period BD travelled the length of Mexico, from the mountainous northern region through to Mexico city and beyond to the Caribbean resorts of the south. Armed only with a small point and shoot camera, he recorded 5 hours of material. 'Mexico' will be a travelogue film in the style of 'Four Months In The Desert' (2002) which can be seen on this site. The film will be a montage of scenes, showing the variety of life in this amazing country whilst asking the audience to question how somewhere so beautiful and safe for tourists can also be the setting for a violent drugs war that has claimed 60,000 lives in the last 6 years.
My Uncle The Film Maker
(Film, expected 2013)
BD was first given a movie camera by his uncle, the film maker Guy Sherwin when he was 14. At the time BD was uninitiated to the world of 'Expanded Cinema' that Sherwin is a well known exponent of. 20 years later BD travelled with Sherwin, his wife (and fellow film maker) Lynn Loo, and their two young children to a film festival in La Coruña in Spain where Sherwin was booked to show two of his film performances, 'Paper Landscapes' and 'Man with Mirror'. 'My Uncle The Film Maker' will see Sherwin at work and will be based around an interview conducted by the festival organisers in the disused prison where the festival took place.
Youtube and the Portrait Film Project
The Youtube channel 'dowdenboy' was set up in 2007 and a few of BD's early films were put there. It was not until 2008 that BD began his project to film performers in portrait style films. These films were intended to be honest and unaffected documents of performance. To date the channel has over 125 films, most of which are unedited single camera films with a live soundtrack. It also includes a few more traditional music videos. The films have received over 70 million views and the channel continues to receive around 50 thousand hits a day. Popular artists include Dub FX, Mr Woodnote, MC Xander, Reggie Watts and Toyface.
CONVOY (The Amsterdam Film)
CONVOY (The Amsterdam Film) is a 50 minute documentary which covers 5 days with musicians from the Convoy Collective as they began their European tour in 2010. Serving as an expansion of the portrait films that BD had made with Dub FX, it included 7 new performances and scenes of the crew hanging out, busking and performing. In 2012 the film was released by Convoy Unltd as a DVD complete with 14 Dub FX performances, most of which had already appeared on the Youtube channel, as well as an audio CD of the soundtracks. The film and extras include music from Mr Woodnote and Lil Rhys, Flower Fairy, CAde, Pete Philly and Stamina MC.