I recently came across the photography of artist Mary Shannon Johnstone, in doing research about artists in the Raleigh, NC area, where I recently moved. Johnstone’s current project, called Landfill Dogs is a yearlong project where she photographs dogs from the county animal shelter at the local landfill.
Each image of the different dogs is unique, and the expressions of the animals vary from image to image. One of my favorite images is taken near the time of sunset. With red clouds behind, the dog is hopping up into the air, as if he/she is about to catch a Frisbee (or a treat) in the air.
The image of the dogs are beautiful, but also quietly haunting once your learn that each dog is close to euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each of the dogs have been homeless for at least two weeks before they are photographs. Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) the artist is taking one dog from the county animal shelter and photographing him/her at the local landfill. The landfill site is used because this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home, and the dogs are photographed at the site of their potential end.
Johnstone also uses the site of the landfill because the county animal shelter is managed under the same management as the landfill. The artist writes, “This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty.”
As part of her photographic process, each dog receives a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of d individual attention. The artist writes that her goal is to,”…offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same.”
To see more images of the Landfill dogs, you can check out the Facebook page, where you can keep up with the project.