I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember. For my fifth birthday my parents gave me an endearing and wacky terrier I named Little Bob, an name apropos for a diminutive dog with such a considerable personality. Since then, I have been captivated by the relationships between people and their dogs, their shared bond and mutual admiration.
I’ve been collecting images of dogs since before I could even read or write. While on our annual family vacation in Kentucky, my mother let me pick out a memento in a gift shop. With the small change I had, I bought a 4 x 5 inch glossy picture of a beagle. The dog was representative of a dog that had lived in the 1800’s and been the subject of Stephen Collin Foster’s song, My Old Dog Tray. I was old enough to know that photo wasn’t really of Old Dog Tray, but it didn’t matter. I loved it anyway.
I was seriously inspired to collect photographs of dogs many years later while working for the legendary photographer Norman Parkinson. He had come back from a challenging portrait commission of a family who neither liked to be photographed nor liked each other. He said, “if you’re shooting a difficult family portrait, pray the family has a dog and feature that animal front and center!” After reviewing his contact sheets, I saw he was absolutely right: the dog infused the portrait with energy and humor.
I began to see Parkinson’s theory even in amateur snapshots. There is something about these frozen moments in time that makes the dogs, the people, and the photographs endearing and magical. There is no doubt the prevalence of pet ownership is part of our intrinsic need to be connected to the purity of the natural world. Please adopt or donate to an animal shelter. They need you.
Copyright: Dogs by Catherine Johnson Phaidon Press Inc. 2007