Keith Arnatt was both a conceptual artist and a photographer. During the early period of his photographic career, he made three series that expressed his fascination with portraiture and the way people behave when confronted by the camera. He began with The Visitors in 1974, then Walking the Dog in 1976 and finally Gardeners in 1978. All three of these earlier series were beautifully shot in black and white before his eventual jump into colour photography. The images featured here are from Walking the Dog.
It is said that Arnatt was originally inspired by August Sanders’s photograph of a man with an Alsatian. The dog in Sanders’s iconic photograph was caught looking away from the camera, but Arnatt wanted to make an entire series where both the dog walkers and their dogs returned the photographer’s gaze. It’s interesting to look at the similarities between the dogs and their owners and the interplay between animal and master. They mimic one another in many physical ways but it’s the facial expressions that are for me the most interesting and humorous. It’s also curious that Arnatt is able to get the dogs to pose for the camera, for those who have tried animal portraiture it’s much more difficult than it may appear.
What is different about this series from the others I have featured here, is that these photographs are not just about the photographer being out on a walk, but the fact that his subjects are in fact the walkers.