This book deals with one family’s attempt to solve one of the great mysteries of photography: how to shoot a black dog.
Before the digital age, before cameras that could solve any problem from red-eye to world hunger, there was the 20th century, a time when photographers actually had to take photos themselves. Among other things, this included finding sufficient light for your subject.
This in almost every picture alludes to that point, showing what happens when you’ve got a camera that makes July look like December in Helsinki. Oddly enough, the results are frequently more beautiful than anything that’s been shot by a present day EOS, modified on a Mac and printed on a machine with a brain like HAL 9000.
Time and again, this couple’s attempts to document their beloved pet go (technically speaking) badly.
Over days and seasons and years, they take tender portraits of their pitch pooch, only to find a silhouette where there should be a canine.
So there’s a shot of the husband stroking an enormous black blob.
And one of the wife engaging in animated chit-chat with a black triangle.
And the husband, again, reclining shirtless on a couch with a black squiggle by his feet.
And so on.
After a while, the dog takes on the enigmatic air of a masked superhero, a doggy Bruce Wayne hiding in shadow. You find yourself itching to see the mutt under the mask. What the hell does this creature look like? Show yourself!
Over the course of dozens of shots, the secret remains.
His owners’ persistence is admirable, with the non-dog not showing up all over the house, from not posing proudly in the garden to not being dried by his mistress on the kitchen counter.
On the one hand, it’s amusing that they could fail to get it right for such a long time. On the other, their repeated mistakes are stunning: a relationship recorded in a series of wonderfully composed errors, more moving than the expected “perfect” owner and pet image from a million million photo albums.
Then, just when you think that you’ll never see the object of all this effort, just when your frustration reaches a pitch, there he is: revealed on the final page.
And it turns out that he’s just a plain old scruffy mutt after all.
— Christian Bunyan
Editor’s Note: Two other works by Erik Kessels can also be found on LensCulture:
In almost every picture #7 and In almost every picture #011
in almost every picture #9
By Erik Kessels
Softcover: 122 page