Over the last decade, the way pets are being portrayed by the creative community has been slowly shifting, with many artists now opting to represent the point of view of the animal and emphasise its unique character and specific needs. Julia Schlosser, a Los Angeles-based artist, art historian and educator, belongs to a new category of artists looking at domestic animals in a non-sentimental way. In her work, Schlosser acknowledges the importance of pets by recognising their identity and learning from them.
In 2001 Schlosser adopted Tess, a Border Collie and German Shepherd cross requiring plenty of exercise. The artist was determined to find a public space in LA where dogs could be off leash legally, a playground for Tess to exercise and socialise with other dogs. “For the uninitiated, a ‘dog park’ refers to an enclosed space set aside specifically to allow dogs to roam off their leashes, an activity which is usually otherwise forbidden on public property” she explains. “By their very nature, dog parks are intriguing spaces.”
Over the course of many trips, Schlosser developed a series of photographs depicting Tess and other dogs shaking their heads, sniffing, barking, running and chasing each other in the park. “This series of photographs, called Roam, attempts to envision the chaotic social interactions of dogs at my neighbourhood leash-less dog park, free—at least temporarily—from the constraints of their interactions with their owner” she points out.
Roam was photographed with a Spectra Polaroid camera with on-camera flash and frequently with a macro attachment, producing colour photographs that look blurred and opaque. This soft material quality, combined with a low view point, the tilted camera and the proximity of the dogs, allows the viewer to enter a new world where one is allowed to imagine being a dog wandering through the park. It is a dream-like vision, accentuated by silhouettes and the details of the hounds. With the sun casting shadows of trees on the ground, the last photograph captures one of the animals close to a fence when the light is falling. It is the end of the day; time to go home.
One of several projects by Schlosser focusing on pets, Roam has been received with great interest by the animal studies community—six images from the series were published in the book Ich, das Tier. Tiere als Persönlichkeiten in der Kulturgeschicht (I, the Animal: Animals as Personalities in Cultural History), by Heike Fuhlbrügge, Jessica Ullrich and Friedrich Weltzien. The artist is currently working on a new project about dog walking meanwhile preparing an exhibition on the same subject.
Images courtesy of Julia Schlosser
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