This is a portrait taken by Maija Astikainen. She came all the way from Finland to take photos of some of us pooches in the UK. This was her photo of me as a part of her thesis on anthropomorphism – and Mummy’s new word.
May’s comment: Soon after becoming a dog owner I started to “identify” human characteristics in Darcy and then George. I soon began to read their expressions and their “woofs”. Are they smiling? Ah, yes – that’s a guilty look. She’s upset with me. He’s sulking – when George chooses not to sleep on my bed. Etc, etc, etc. But of course these are my human interpretations of their expressions.
So when I heard about Maija, a Finnish photographer working on her thesis in anthropomorphism entitled “One-Dog Policy” – the habit of adding human characteristics to animals, I told her about Darcy.Her “One-Dog Policy” series is part of her photography masters thesis at Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture. As dogs are the most common pets and often seen and treated more like one of the family members than animals, Maija has taken on a project to seek the human characteristics in our pets. Her series of portraits has been shot in multiple homes in Helsinki, Madrid, Kent and one in London! She is fascinated with the spaces and personalities of these dogs, capturing with lounging decadence and suspicious curiosity – her photography attempts to find the human qualities pets possess in living amongst us humans.
This is the link to her published thesis – http://www.maijaastikainen.com/one-dog-policy.pdf
Maija’s comment: The thesis One-Dog Policy discusses pet dogs and the side effects of dog keeping. The principle idea is that the dog is seen as a human-like creature. The thesis approaches images of dogs on the basis of portrait.
The production part consists of 32 photographs of different kind of pet dogs in Finland, Spain and the UK. The photographs are portraits shot on location and in a studio. The written part discusses why people keep pets, what kind of phenomena are related to pet keeping, and how the humanization of pets influences the human-animal relationship and photographing of dogs. In addition, the text deals with how the likeness of humans and animals is utilized in art and popular culture, and how seeing animals as humans affects looking at their pictures. How do we look at images of animals, when we see them as humanlike creatures?
The essential theme in the thesis is power and dominance. A photographer uses power by directing an objectifying gaze upon the model. In addition, the photographer has power to show the person in the picture in a preferred way. Power and dominance is also used towards animals when they are kept as pets, selectively bred and decorated.
Another essential theme in the thesis is antropomorfism, attribution of human characteristics to animals. When looking at portraits of dogs, the codes of portrait are interpreted by an antropomorfic gaze. Animals become imaginary humans, but nevertheless, their distinct gaze tells them apart from humans.