Steidl & Partners
For several years, Jo Longhurst has been working with British Whippet breeders, photographing their dogs by bloodline, exploring their obsessive quest for the perfect show dog. There is a wealth of animal imagery in the history of art. Yet despite the abundance of this imagery, used and read in many ways, as symbol, metaphor or allegory, it would seem that animals are rarely, if ever, represented as themselves. Animals always appear to stand in for something or someone else. Longhurst challenges this precedent. Through photographs she explores the intimate relationship between dog and breeder in which power, control, love and desire are intertwined. Underpinning Longhurst’s work is an exploration of the history and practice of photographic portraiture, and the effect of looking and being seen. Her study of the Whippet foregrounds the close relationship between human and animal, and the increasing significance of photographic technologies in the development of human identity. The shaping of the domestic dog has a history in nineteenth-century eugenics, a movement born out of the invention of the photographic process. As part of her working process, Longhurst uses a variety of photographic technologies that have been used to record and control human portraits, including state-of-the-art technologies and those already considered obsolete such as stereoscopic cameras. Her photographs question ideas of conformity and difference, breeding and eugenics–the search for perfection. Although she photographs dogs, the questions she asks through her work are specific to the question of what it is to be human.
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Text by Ute Eskildsen and Jo Longhurst
56 pages, 46 colour plates
Steidl & Partners