Wild dogs. Abandoned dogs. Loved dogs. Martin Usborne is a photographer, writer, publisher, and artist whose work taps at tension between humans and animals. With these hauntingly beautiful portraits of unhinged shelter dogs, he holds a mirror to our own neuroses.
Dogs have always been my ‘way in’ to the animal world. They were my first animal love from a super-young age (when I had cut-out pictures of dogs all over my wall), and they have always been the animal I most readily relate to.
I once photographed some huskies for my project The Silence of Dogs in Cars and they refused to stay still. Three huskies in a small car, running around and around inside. No amount of squeaky balls or thick ham would get them to concentrate. Finally we discovered that Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ played at full volume kept them enraptured. It was vaguely surreal.
The best tip I can give is to go with the dog. Don’t try too hard to keep them still (unless you have Sinéad O’Connor on repeat). It’s more interesting to let them be themselves and to show you something raw and wild than to pose.
Wild at heart
Working with dogs I learned that I’m an animal too. That we’re all animals. Photographing a dog, really looking at a dog, spending time with it, sensing their wants, needs, urges. It reminds us we’re all, on some level at least, very much the same.
I find it fascinating that the dog–human bond exists at all. We’re not great at getting along with other species. We’re not always so great at getting along with each other. And for that matter, we’re not always so great at being kind to dogs. And yet, despite all that, dogs so often unreservedly love and trust us. And we, quite often, give it back. There’s something fairly fascinating about that. In the same way when you see a rare occurrence of a tiger making friends with a goat, or a cat looking after a bird—it’s like a trick of nature that is both endearing and rather strange.
All images courtesy of Martin Usborne
Article published at Four&Sons, Issue Ten.
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