Dogs, they are great aren’t they? Our canine friends offer us so much and ask for very little in return, a squeaky toy here, a treat there. So when I picked up a copy of A Handbook For Dog Walkers by Tomáš Werner, (designed and published by GOST books), it was at a strange time for me. I lost my dog of 10 years a few days before; he was huge part of my day-to-day existence. And I began to fall into a spiral of thought on how important a dog can be to your emotional and physical well being. A hole was left which only dog lovers and owners could understand.
But as I began to turn the pages of this colourful little book, the biggest smile began to stretch its way across my face, until I was smiling ear to ear, looking at this happy Pomeranian called Q, balancing on various window ledges and objects found just off the side walks in Florida. But this smile wasn’t working its way across my face just because Q is a sweet little dog to look at (he really is adorable); it was because Werner has managed to produce a body of work that is so much more than photographs of a dog on various suburban pedestals.
The book isn’t just about the relationship between man and dog. It goes beyond that and explores the state of the fading art deco buildings that you can find in Florida. The colours are muted and easy on the eyes, allowing both Q and the architecture of the buildings to work in unison, a balance just as good as Q’s on those exposed pipes.
There is a real bond between Q and Werner, and it is clear within the photographs as Q gazes affectionately at us, ears up and tongue hanging out. One photograph in particular seemed to summarise Werner’s feelings for Q perfectly, Q stands on a ledge, with an arch behind him painted pastel blue. Automatically I thought of the religious iconography of the Virgin Mary, there is something very spiritual about it.
This photograph is a game changer for me in regards to the rest of the work; it clearly shows just how important this little dog is to Werner, but also universally how important dogs are to us. And with this statement made by Werner, the way you address and look the rest of the photographs changes. Think of how the Egyptians worshiped their cats through hieroglyphics and statues, Werner has produced something of a similar vein with a camera. Yet we know what Werner is doing is nothing really new, more of a fun extension of things that have come before. Dogs have can be found depicted in art just as long as humans have. So there is an understanding through history of the importance of these four-legged friends.
As I worked my way towards the end of the book, one thing really stuck with me. And it’s how the act of walking a dog and taking your camera with you, you can really use that circumstance to talk about something bigger than just your own friendship with your own pooch. There are interesting layers here, which begin to peel like the pastel painted walls in the Florida sun.
Although the title suggests this is a book for dog walkers, being a dog lover isn’t overly important when you pick it up. These is enough here to tantalise your photographic taste buds and to explore. Hat’s off to Werner, he’s created something rather unique. And to Q, for being such a good boy!
Words by Harry Rose
A handbook for Dog Walkers by Tomáš Werner is available via GOST
To pick up a copy click HERE
£15 / €22.95 / $22.95
Afterword by Elliot Erwitt
150 x 185mm
Hardback with foil blocking