Dogs in cars: Martin Usborne's Mute
"I was once left in a car at young age. I don't know at what age or where or for how long, possibly at four years old, perhaps outside Tesco, probably for 15 minutes only. The details don't matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back."
It was this experience that inspired photographer Martin Usborne's latest project which comprises photographs of dogs looking silently out of car windows in the dead of night.
This may not be an obvious leap to make - yet the pictures and, dare I say, expressions, of the dogs does tie it together very successfully.
At first glance the pictures feel very real, and we wonder how many miles Martin must have covered to find this many animals trapped in cars, then of course we realise this is a construction, a studio-based project that is not as it seems.
He told me:
"I did try and do it reportage but thankfully found very few dogs stuck in cars. I walked round various supermarkets but people became suspicious of a man with a camera peering into parked cars - as you can imagine!
"I prefer that the shots are set up - they are not intended to be entirely real, more symbolic, and dream-like perhaps. The lighting I think contributes to this. It is rather intense and cinematic, although I was careful to make the lights look as though they could be street lights."
The series is not about the issue of leaving dogs in hot cars, though Martin, a confirmed dog-lover and owner of Moose, a Miniature Schnauzer, is obviously aware of the animal welfare debate. These pictures stem from his childhood experience and then extend into the feeling isolation many of us will experience, in this case in a modern urban setting.
Looking at Martin's site, you can see that his pictures are also full of humour and laced with his own style and vision.
"Yes, a lot of my work has humour and I think arguably this project has some humour too. Dogs in cars is rather ridiculous on one level and many people smile or laugh when they see their first image from the series, but overall this project is more dark than others I have done.
"But then I am both a very light-hearted and deeply serious person, so it seems only natural to me to move between the two. I do always strive for a quirkiness in my work - no, perhaps that is the wrong word - a certain playfulness, and even the serious stuff I like to have a little bit of edge to it.
"My best work comes when I am most honest with myself and don't think too much about what I am trying to do. These dog images arose in my imagination very much of their own accord - they demanded to be brought to life. I'm finding that the more personal work I do the more that certain themes come to the fore and there is not much I can do about it.
"Many of my portraits for example are of individuals shot through doorways or by windows and have a certain darkness to them. Some physical element removes them from the viewer, just like the dogs are removed from the viewer by the glass of the car window."