The animal portrait photographs by Charlotte Dumas for her photobook Al Lavoro! (At Work!) are of dogs at their places of “work”. The book investigates how might “work” be defined for an animal, as surly we can speculate these dogs might not define this “work” in the same manner. For a domesticated animal, “work” maybe what we think of in the traditional sense to help accomplish some task, but in this case, Dumas also investigates the act of companionship as a form of “work”.
Dumas’s subjects are formally centered within the pictorial frame, singling them out and providing them with visual significance. The formal dog’s portrait is a frontal pose and the animal’s eyes in are not always in direct contact with the photographers lens. Each of these animals is identified in her captions as working dogs, although the animals are not photographing performing their “work”. Each dog either sits or lies in repose.
The animal subjects are also revealed without any context relationship to their owners and without any people in the frame. Dumas’s dogs are not groomed as show dogs, nor elegantly posed as found in the stylistic posing of Catherine Ledner’s canine portraits “Glamour Dogs”. The subjects of Dumas investigation are the common dogs in their ordinary working environment, which borders on the common and non-romantic.
A truffle dog rests in the trunk of car, while the details of the car indicate a need of repair. The rescues dogs with attired in their gear, one is lying in wait inside a rescues helicopter while the other sits on the edge of the wild.
A dog that in it’s formerly life was a testing laboratory subject is photographed on what now appears to be an individual’s couch. Likewise a “retired” racing dog is reclining within a personal residence. Neither of these two photograph provides any visual linkage to their past and the reader is only provided the barest clues in the accompanying captions. These two photographs cause me to wonder, what memories might these animals have?
This slim vertical hardcover book alternates the layout of the photographic plates, with the more formalized Polaroid’s in a horizontal layout, with a single photographic image on the double-page spread with the caption facing. The text and captions are provided in Italian and English and the accompanying essays are provided by Francesco Zanot
Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook