This week’s Book of the Week proves that as a species we’ve been pretty nuts about photographing our pets since the advent of photography. Photography Going to the Dogs collects four out-of-print books of vintage pet portraits originally published by Bloomsbury. The photographs, daguerreotypes, tin types, and postcards are all reprinted from bookmaker Libby Hall’s personal collection.
The photos range from sentimental family portraits to pictures of pure pet eccentricity. And while some pictures may seem quaint or austere (subjects in early photographs had to keep very still for lengthy exposures, a remarkable feat for pet and owner alike) there are very touching scenes: Soldiers pose with their dogs, as do young children. In other photos dogs are shown doing human things: sitting at luncheon tables, looking through photo albums, and even sitting behind cameras.
What we really admire about this book, beyond the fact that it’s about dogs, is the love and natural curatorial sense that Hall brings to her collection. Photos are paired with an intrinsic eye towards compliment or contrast; sometimes it’s two pictures of the same breed, and sometimes it’s something more subtle in the composition of the photos. Hall, a former press photographer, even includes notes in the back, providing what details she’s been able to uncover.
Hall is selling the book without profit because, in her words, “those books are now out of print and are becoming difficult to find. In order to continue being able to share the images, I have put together this selection of my favourite photographs from the collection.”