‘Chienville: Dogs of Paris‘, was the first photography project I started after moving to Paris for my wife’s work. I arrived in Paris – the City of Lights – with my family, in April of 2014, and quickly discovered that Parisians are incredibly protective of their privacy. I had ventured onto the streets with my camera, to familiarise myself with the much-vaunted city, and to walk off my jetlag. But the locals were very forthright in shunning my attempts at street photography. Even with my appalling lack of French language skills, I was in no doubt about it.
However, if there’s one thing the Parisians love more than their privacy, great food, and fashion: it’s their dogs. In cafés, supermarkets, on public transport and, of course, on the streets of the city, both as pets and in too many cases, as companions and guards for the homeless, there are dogs everywhere. All sorts of dogs, from the pompous and tiny, the huge and menacing, to the knock-about ruffians and super-preened pooches. More importantly, I realised that the privacy-proud people of Paris were delighted for me to make images of their dogs. So started my series; Chienville: Dogs of Paris. In some ways, it was a work-around way of documenting Parisians, if only from the knees down. Of course, it was also a great way to get a better understanding of my new neighbourhood, its people, its dogs and its layout.
One thing which really fascinated me as I reviewed the images was how often photographs captured a dog and its human walking seemingly in unison, with similar gaits, or with matching legs/paws lifted while standing. Maybe it’s another form of dogs and their owners looking alike?
Partly due to the haste with which the move to Europe occurred, but more so because of the world-famous French bureaucracy (insert eye-roll), I was unable to obtain a working visa before leaving Australia. This left me with plenty of time on my hands while my young daughter was in maternelle – French kindergarten. Hence, the project continued over the almost 18 months we resided in the beautiful city of Paris.