I recently moved to Columbus and one of the first things I saw was a dog outside a fast-food Chinese restaurant. It was a small terrier in a blue truck and the windows were rolled up. It could have barked but it didn’t. It just stared out the window forlornly. The helplessness was palatable. Then I was reminded of Usborne’s series.
In a statement, Usborne says, about the creation of these photos, “These images are created from the inside out. They start with a rough sketch that is later realised. I draw quickly, trying to tap into something instinctive, then recreate the scene photographically, either by finding the location or by building a small set and using multiple lights. It always surprises me how close the final image is to the sketch. The dog comes next, and I normally find them whilst walking my own in the park or through friends. None of the dogs are professional models. The dog’s expression or manner is crucial in determining whether it can carry the mood of the scene. The car is then used to match the ‘feel’ of the dog and the location.”
MPEX: How does a project like Mute differ from a project like Crufts, your chronicle of the Crufts Dog Show, in terms of conception and execution? Both feature dogs, after all.
Martin Usborne: Well, the execution is very different. Mute is a lot more involved. It took 3 years to get 40 images. Crufts took me 3 days! But there is a parallel theme: they are both about the way humans control and silecne dogs. In one we keep them in cars, in another we keep them in bad haircuts… if you know what I mean.
You do portraiture, fine art shoots, location shoots. Is there a mode of photography you prefer over others, or do they each have their different appeals?
At the moment I most prefer animal shoots. I find animals less self-conscious… and also to an extent less intimidating. They don’t have a meeting to rush off to.
You photograph a wide variety of people and personalities for your portraits. How do you choose what subjects to photograph for portraits?
If it’s personal, it’s whatever interests me. Otherwise, commissions decide who it is!