The dog walkers

Darwell, John ORCID logo ORCID: (2018) The dog walkers. In: Living with Animals Conference: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, Some We Need, 21-23 March 2019, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, US. (Unpublished) Full text not available from this repository.

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Ten years ago I became aware of a new phenomenon that I was observing whilst walking my dogs. In local parks and hedgerows, I began to see bags of discarded dog poo with ever increasing frequency, hanging in trees or on fences, thrown in bushes or even on one occasion floating down a river. My initial puzzlement re this slowly turned to a curiosity verging on obsession as to this and I began to ask myself “why?”. Why go to the trouble of picking up and placing your beloved pet’s faeces to then discard or hang on the nearest fencepost or tree branch, or alternatively to lob into the bushes? My response to this curiosity was to start to photograph these bags whenever I came upon them and I would carry my heavy equipment with me just in case I came upon a suitable bag. Over the next decade I photographed hundreds of these bags, from local parks, to the wilds of the English lake District and more recently on an international basis on the beaches of Australia, the streets of Rome, in rural France and suburban Germany to produce what has become a vast typology of discarded bags. Yet still I ask the question as to why?

I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer either from dog walkers or government so my hypothesis is that, as it became a criminal offence to leave dog faeces where your pet has deposited it, many people felt (nowadays to be seen to be leaving your dog’s mess where it landed is a huge social no no akin to spitting in public) obliged to collect in a bag (or to be seen to be collecting to get around the social faux pas) but the question is then what to do with said bag. If it’s the beginning of a walk you don’t really want this, let’s face it, offensive object accompanying you, so having often no place to dispose of (in a bin say) it gets dropped or hung on a fence. In this way, the act either goes unseen or the bag hanger can make believe (delude themselves or others) they will collect the bag on the return journey. The ever-increasing frequency with which I observe these bags (though I do profess to, now, possessing a highly attuned eye when it comes to dog poop bags!) makes me think not and instead it has just become something many people do almost without thinking or once hanging on the fence is no longer their concern in much the same way, some, people think it is ok to empty their car ashtrays out in public car parks. In 2013 I published a book entitled DDSBs (Discarded Dog * Bags) and to this day l receive numerous emails on a weekly basis containing photographs of such ddsbs with a message that often begins “Hi John, Saw this and thought of you…” Though I have tried to wean myself away from the subject I cannot help myself in that whenever I see a particularly good example I still have to record it in all its glory.

As a direct result of this work I am now working on a follow-up project entitled ‘The Dog Walkers’. Within this I photograph dog walkers carrying the aforementioned ddsbs, as much a part of the contemporary apparatus of dog walking as a lead, and request if I can take their photograph. This often leads to some degree of puzzlement until I explain my aims and show examples of previous dog walker images cards I carry with me. Within these images I deliberately photography the dog walker from the neck down as I do now wish to focus on the individual’s appearance, but rather to produce a second typology of images that bring together the triangle of lead, bag and dog (where the dog occurs in the image is very much up to the individual personality of the dog in question). In this approach I am building up a large set of images that relate to the nature and relationship of dog owners and their charges and that speaks of how we can only undertake such selfless acts with a creature for which we have a mutual love and affection.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Departments: Academic Departments > Institute of Arts (IOA) > Graphics and Photography
Depositing User: John Darwell
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2019 10:57
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 20:45
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