Extraordinary Pictures Taken Behind the Scenes at Dog Shows

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Herning, Denmark, 2008© Martin Andersen

Canine contest or doggy beauty pageant? Photographer Martin Andersen investigates, to hilarious effect

Photographer Martin Andersen spent ten years travelling across Europe and North America to create his photographic series Dog Shows, capturing the “fun and surreal moments” which occur between hounds and their owners while canine contests take place. The resulting shots are bizarre and endearing; a perfect portrayal of the strange liminal spaces such competitions create for likeminded individuals. 

Andersen writes that the inception of the series came about when he was “really longing to work in a more impulsive way – to just observe and snap fleeting moments. I had become increasingly inspired by photographers such as Gary Winograd, Bruce Davidson and Jeff Mermelstein”. When he happened to attend a dog show in 2004, he was hooked. “The experience felt surreal and was full of colourful characters and funny-looking dogs. I took a few snaps, but spent more time observing and taking it all in.” Andersen's photographs are oddly captivating in their strangeness; see the shot of a small grey dog, somehow both hairless and hairy, jumping into the air to catch the hand of (a person we'd hope is) its owner; or, that of “the two women in clashing patterned outfits and their Andy Warhol-looking hairless dog”.

The amount of grooming that goes on at dog shows is also notable – although it is perhaps naïve to be surprised by this. Owners have combs and clips and brushes at the ready, in a manner which resembled mothering to Andersen. “Some of the dogs are treated like little children and are smothered with love and silly outfits. I saw competitors with crews who would help out in hair spraying the coats, varnishing the nails, curling the hair.” Dog person, cat person, any person – we defy you not to smile at these brilliant photographs.

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