A new Magnum photobook, published by Thames & Hudson, explores the varying ways photographs have depicted dogs and their relationship to people. Spanning over seven decades of Magnum’s image archive, the book displays our canine friends in a range of settings: on the street, competing in shows, at the beach, with their celebrity owners, and in our homes.
Magnum Dogs is the ultimate collection of canine photography for the discerning dog lover, bringing together a brilliantly diverse and cheering selection that showcases the visual wit and skill of the Magnum team. It features some 180 photographs of dogs from across the world, organized into five thematic chapters – Streetwise, Best in Show, At the Beach, Behind the Scenes and It’s a Dog’s Life. Canine encounters include immaculately coiffured show dogs captured in wryly observed photography from the likes of Martin Parr and Harry Gruyaert, or intimate glimpses of Hollywood stars alongside their trusted, four-legged confidants, as seen through the lenses of Eve Arnold and Dennis Stock. Whether depicting strays roaming the streets of Colombia or pampered pooches lounging in Parisian apartments, these photos brim with affection, humor, and insight into the human as well as canine condition.
“Magnum photographers are a rare breed. Since the photo agency was founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour, and George Rodger, its international members have had a knack for being in the right place at the right time – and often in the wrong place at the right time. They’re on hand for historic happenings and crises across the world, tracking those big- scale public events with a tenacious ability to immortalize not only a moment in time but also the key ones. Private moments, too – Magnum has them covered.
And then there’s that place in between: the local scene, the pedestrian streets. The photographers are there, documenting the everyday, seeking recognizable and relatable goings-on. Although their work depicts an array of styles, they share an idiosyncratic pedigree of journalist, artist, and storyteller. Wherever they travel, they are unified by a curiosity for real stories – surprising, unbelievable, but real. It’s not so surprising, then, that a dig through the extensive archives unearths a notable presence of dogs.
Dogs are also there during global conflicts, in the homes of the privileged, on the laps of the homeless on the streets. They’re in every country, on every continent. Oblivious to a watchful lens, unaware and unself-conscious, without a scrap of falsity, dogs just do their own thing without a thought to what they look like, while we stiffen and posture and pose. Yes, a dog can be trained to perform (we’ll get to that), but they don’t pretend – if they’re hungry, they’ll let you know, and if they’re happy, their tails will give it away. Animals possess authenticity, so our canine counterparts – walking the same sphere as us, living in unison with humans – provide a serendipitous subject for an honest snapshot. Of course, it helps that – unlike their aloof feline rivals, but much like these photographers – dogs are right in the thick of it. Unabashedly in your face and in the way, trailing havoc and mess and mistakes in their wake, and everything that makes a photograph real.”
From Elliott Erwitt capturing a terrier’s jump mid-air in Paris in 1959 to Richard Kalvar’s snapshot of two hounds walking separate ways, dogs have featured in a great number of Magnum’s most recognizable street photography images. A dog suited in sunglasses and coat, a cigar hanging from its mouth, conveys a certain grace in Thomas Hoepker’s picture from New York; in the solitude of the street scenes in Mexico and Columbia, Alex Webb and Alec Soth’s dogs are restful focal points for the eye. These images explore the canines who appear momentarily in outdoor scenes and create serendipitously amusing, contemplative, or eye-pleasing images.
* The photo cover is by Thomas Hoepker.