Jo Longhurst ~ 4 february to 6 march 2005
studio 1.1
london e2

text | statement | images  

present show 

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Breed is the most recent work of a larger project that explores contemporary ideals and the role of the photographic image in shaping identity. In this almost monochromatic installation, four circular images of various sizes float in space. Three of them depict a dog’s torso. A single image of a dog’s face is hung to one side. The focus is shallow and concentrated only on the dog’s closed eyes.

The work features champion Whippets from one of the top kennels in England. However,in these images the dogs are never going to be perfect. The perspective is allwrong; the dogs are photographed from unusual angles, their limbs foreshortened,their blemishes exposed. This work deals with the complexities of the breedingprocess and the uneasy relationship between controlled selection and mutability.It also questions broader notions of breed; race and class. The title refersback to the first project installation, Twelve dogs, twelve bitches. In thispiece immaculate pedigree dogs are photographed in show pose, named, and arrangedlike objects of desire in grids that invite the viewer to make comparisons andmake explicit the idea that we are judged by who we are and how we look. In bothpieces, the detached presentation of the show dog may obscure the loving relationshipthat often exists between breeder and dog; a bond which fuels a desire to ‘improve’ thebreed. Our close relationship to our pets has a history of being denied in arttheory. As a result dogs are rarely, if ever, represented as themselves. Theyalways appear to stand in for something or someone else.

The portraits Saffi and Iris represent a challenge to this historical precendent,and an attempt to simply photograph a dog as a dog. The image is emptied of symbolictrappings. The dogs are identified by their familiar pet names and meet the viewer’sgaze head on. Although I made these images in the style of a human portrait,my intention was not to anthropomorphise the dogs, but to photograph them accordingto a convention we are familiar with.

I am currently working with breeders on other projects. Through photographs Iexplore the human/animal relationship. I am particularly interested in the intimaterelationship between dog and breeder in which power, control, love and desireare intertwined. Although I photograph dogs, the questions I ask are specificto the question of what it is to be human.

Jo Longhurst
Jan 2005