Man’s Best Friend as Metaphor

Behold
The Photo Blog
Feb. 11 2013 11:00 AM

Dogs in Cars

Martin Usborne
Alfie.

Martin Usborne.

This week is bursting with puppies: Today and tomorrow, the Westminster Kennel Club holds its 137th Annual All-Breed Dog Show, which was cleverly parodied in the movie Best in Show. And Thursday is Valentine’s Day, when pet owners are expected to spend upward of $815 million on their non-human family members.

Meanwhile, in the real-dog world, photographer Martin Usborne portrays a more quotidian facet of the world of canines with his series, “The Silence of Dogs in Cars.” And while dog photos are familiar, Usborne—who has a book published by Kehrer, to be released this week in the United States, and an upcoming show at The Little Black Gallery in London—has successfully breached the genre of cute-dog photos.

Martin Usborne
Congo.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Flo.

Martin Usborne.

Though Usborne initially considered the idea of photographing dogs in cars unfavorably, the idea kept coming back to him, so 3½ years ago he began to create the series. He initially approached the project in a unique way.

Advertisement

“I found myself walking around a supermarket car park,” Usborne explained via email, “and when I could see no dogs, I started barking loudly. I realized I would either get arrested or put in some sort of ward, so I decided to set the shots up myself.”

In carefully crafting each image, Usborne began with a sketch of the imagined photo before finding the dogs. He recruited subjects by approaching dog owners while walking his own dogs. He would then find the cars and locations. Usborne described the process: “Although bewildered at first, it was incredible to see how many strangers were so eager to help out and let their dog be photographed. After the dog was found, I tried to match the dog to the car; people aren't as bothered about seeing their car in a book as they are their dog.”

Martin Usborne
Prospero.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Milo.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Dasher.

Martin Usborne.

It might be easy to dismiss photographs of pets as merely cute—the Internet demonstrates that people are obsessed with them, and studies show they may be good for our health—but Usborne hopes his audience will see something more in his work. “When I finally took the first picture,” Usborne explained, “I began to understand where it all came from: fears of being alone, unheard, fears of being like an animal with no human voice.”

Of how his project is usually received Usborne says, “I'm always surprised by how few people actually get what the project is about: the feeling of isolation. The dog is a metaphor for the parts of ourselves that we keep locked away, that we aren't able to express. But then again it’s always nice to see a cute dog looking out of a car, so I get why people respond to it on the surface level as well.”

Martin Usborne
Boris.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Peggy.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Misty and Pickles.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Burt.

Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne
Ruby (2).

Martin Usborne.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.