Growing up in Glasgow, I’d often see stray dogs; and if a dog was being carried or pushed in a pram it would be by a slightly batty old woman. In my mind, dogs were simply man’s best friends, but then I started my Harrodsburg project, in London’s Knightsbridge, and stumbled upon the strange world of pet parents.
I was in Italy on an assignment that came from the Harrodsburg work. There isn’t the same abundance of wealth on the streets of Milan as in London and I was becoming frustrated. It was then that I noticed groomed and preened dogs being paraded around the streets at dusk. Somewhere between growing up in Glasgow and hitting the streets of Milan, dogs had been elevated to fashion item status. This cultural shift fascinated me. Back in London, I continued shooting Harrodsburg but found myself increasingly drawn to dogs rather than their owners. The dogs had human expressions, strong characters, individual personalities and I was hooked.
My pursuit of them took me to New York and Tokyo and I began to realise that anthropomorphic ‘parents’ can spend as much money on accessorising and grooming their ‘offspring’ as they do on themselves. Even so, it was the dogs and their canine traits that jumped out at me: their claws, paw pads, incisors, drool drenched beards and wet noses. I began to capture the streets from a dog’s eye view that we bipeds wouldn’t normally see.
In Tokyo, what is often referred to as ‘extreme humanising’ seems to have reached its zenith. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a correlation between the drop in the birth rate and all the furry babies being pushed around in prams. Humans want love and their dogs give it to them unconditionally. Some would argue this justifies the pampering. Some might even see it as an advantage that their child in a fur coat will never grow out of its stroller, answer you back or need support through university and beyond.
I’m a dog lover. As a photographer, I particularly like it that they don’t know what a camera is; they never chase me down the street demanding I delete the photo. And whilst I would love to own one, I do fear their paw prints on my travel plans.
I definitely got the sense that some of the dogs had forgotten they were dogs at all. Dogs don’t know they’re wearing designer clothes or Swarovski crystal collars but they clearly enjoy all the pampering; they’ve never had it so good. But there are others that would rather be running around a park chasing balls or chewing bones. After all every dog must have his day.