Dogs have become our family members and furry babies. They represent simultaneously fragments of wild nature inside our homes and similar creatures, kind of special humans. They are like us, but still others. Maija Astikainen has been photographing One-Dog Policy, a series of dog portraits, since 2010 in Finland, UK and Spain.
“I travelled the countries in search of a comprehensive view of pet dogs and their homes, and of the various phenomena attached to having a dog as a pet. Initially I decided to limit my subject to dogs living in city centers; dogs leading a near-human life in an environment atypical for the species. But little by little my interest shifted towards the relationship between the pet and the human.”
Maija Astikainen (1985) is a Helsinki based photographer who has studied BA and MA in Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture. In her personal work she is interested in the relationship of human, nature and urbanism.
“I’ve never had a dog of my own. As a child I did spend time with dogs and talked about getting one, and when I first started shooting dogs, I did it because I wanted to spend time with them. When I grew up, I realized I wouldn’t be able to give a dog the time and attention it needs. A pet, however, was a must. I got a cat.”
In her series One-Dog Policy she contemplates the roles that we assign to dogs. The photos play with anthropomorphism, the habit of adding human characteristics to animals. The illusion of likeness leads to misinterpretation. Dogs look guilty or depressed, laughing or blaming. They become imaginary persons.
“In my close-ups, shot against a dark background, the photographs’ meanings rely entirely on the dog’s appearance and expression. Different breeds have their own typical qualities, which make them look like different ”persons”, and by studying these qualities you begin to construct an artificial identity for the dog. A portrait should look like its subject and tell something essential about that person, or this is at least the general perception. In a dog’s portrait the resemblance carries a different meaning: the portrait transforms into a comparison between dog and human appearance. The picture is not a reflection of a dog’s personality, but of something that rather resembles a human being. As in human portraits, the objects in the background, the dog’s appearance and its posture give the viewer clues on the dogs imagined lifestyle, mood and character.”
The exhibition includes 26 portraits of dogs. The series has spreaded widely on dozens respected international photography blogs including Mashable, Bored Panda, Feature Shoot, Telegraph etc. One-Dog Policy will be also published as a book during autumn 2016 by Khaos Publishing.
Maija Astikainen’s Radio Helsinki interview in Finnish
Maija Astikainen’s Basso radio interview in Finnish
Maija Astikainen’s One-Dog Policy at Bang Bang Gallery 16.9.2016-05.01.2017.
Open house on 23.11.2016 17-19 or by appointment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, +358-50-5110765