7 Vintage Portraits of Dogs
The Dog in Photography: 1839-Todayis a thorough survey of the history of dog pics.
Though Instagram profiles devoted to the personal brands of our pets are a relatively recent phenomenon, the dog pic, in itself, is not. Virtually as long as there has been photography, there have been photos of dogs, as the new book The Dog in Photography: 1839-Today proves. The book provides an extensive catalog of dog photography through the ages, from the very earliest snapshots of pooches to today.
There are more than 400 photos of all types of dogs, at work, at play, in the studio, in the battle trenches, on road trips, sitting at cafes, and hanging out with stars. There are dog photos taken by artists like Man Ray and Alexander Rodchenko, and a surprising number of 19th century photos of nude women hanging out with dogs. And of course, there is a photo of Queen Elizabeth II with a corgi.
Below are just a few of the historic photographs on offer.
Though few pups could sit still enough make good subjects for the earliest cameras, the first dog photo may date all the way back to the 1840s, when Nicolaas Henneman took a photo of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog Flush sleeping. As photography rose in popularity, people wanted images of their pets, too. By the late 19th century, dogs had made their way into studio portraits, both with their humans and by themselves.
"Dogs joined their mistresses and masters before the camera, and often got to pose by themselves, perched on stools or seated on luxurious pillows, frequently with fanciful human props," author Raymond Merritt writes in the book. "The well-groomed and well-bred dog signified prosperity, underscored status, and epitomized good taste."
Many pioneering photographers shot canine portraits. German-American photographer Arnold Genthe was one of the earliest photographers working with autochrome color processing, giving us some of the world's first color portraits of dogs. (He was far better known for his feline photography, though, and regularly made portrait subjects sit with his cat, Buzzer.)
Vienna-born photographer Lisette Model was a pioneer of street photography. She famously photographed the Westminster Dog Show in New York in 1946, producing a number of portraits of show dogs.
The Dog in Photography features numerous photos of dogs with celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley, Gertrude Stein, and Frida Kahlo. The Kennedy family makes several appearances, in portraits of both Jackie and John as youngsters with their respective pets, and later, photos of the whole presidential family. One White House photo shows the Kennedys and their two children with no less than six dogs.
Todd Webb began his photography career in New York City after World War II, hauling a heavy tripod around the city and taking photos of the buildings and people he encountered. Though he's better known for his architectural cityscapes, he also photographed the occasional pup.
Legendary Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt is particularly fond of taking pictures of dogs—in fact, he has released several books devoted entirely to his dog photos. (This pup graces the cover of 1998's .) Erwitt says he often tries to get his canine subjects to jump up so he can photograph them in midair, and to do so, he barks at them. “Sometimes they bark back, sometimes they jump,” he told NPR in 2011.
The Dog in Photography will be released on May 31. You can buy it for $20 on Amazon.