History spotlight……

Dog Photography. Picture this…

In our modern age of snap happy DIY photography using our mobile phones and cameras hardly bigger than the belly button on a leprechaun, many will have forgotten, or never known, the convoluted effort that, historically, was involved in ‘ shooting’ pictures of dogs.

Via social media, owners merrily post up photos of their dogs that years ago would never have seen the light of day, on the premise that a picture certainly would be worth a thousand words, and a picture of your dog looking less than perfect was a thousand words you’d rather not have exposed.

The history of canine photography is an interesting evolution.

The principal exponent in such a specialist field is undoubtedly the Company, Thos Fall.

Born in 1833, when photography was much in its embryonic phase, Thomas Fall, grew up in Yorkshire, and in the 1860s moved to London to take up the post of assistant photographer to Elliott and Fry, of Baker Street, London.

After a decade working alongside Elliott and Fry he set up his own studio – also in Baker Street.

Fall, had a clientele culled from the higher echelons of society, led by Alexandra, Princess of Wales ( later Queen Alexandra), consort to the future King Edward V11, and thus he was granted a Royal Warrant in recognition of his canine photography.

Thomas Fall
Thos Fall

In 1900 Fall died, but the business was continued by the Fall family, until 1910 when the firm and the business name was sold to Edward Hitchings Parker, a young entrepreneurial manager of the Finchley Road, London branch of the company.

He retained the company name which through the decades caused considerable confusions as many people would address him as Mr Fall.

17 years into owning the business, Parker employed Barbara Bourn as an assistant, and later she became a business partner, finally inheriting the business in 1958 upon the death of Edward Hitchings Parker. The company name remained.

Norah Hartley ( sister of L.P. Hartley, author of The Go Between) with her 1982 Crufts group winner, Ch. Betsinda of Rotherwood

As the 1960s gave way to the 1970s Barbara Bourn began to feel the company had reached the culmination of it’s natural lifespan although she continued with studio assignments to the end of the decade.

Interviewed in 1970 she described working for Parker as being often a tempestuous experience, that he was not averse to shouting at both his assistants and his clients when he couldn’t get the pose he wanted.

Barbara Bourn recounted how on one occasion she had to stand in the middle of a bed of nettles so Parker could capture a dog exactly as he wanted.

Edward Hitchings Parker

William Burrows, husband of Barbara Bourn, persuaded her of the historical value of the Thos Fall archive, and this is now preserved for posterity, although Burrows and Bourn could hardly have foreseen the rise of cameras within a mobile phone.

The only extant photograph I can recall of an ETT by Thos Fall is Kitty Voce’s Ch Bordesley Bowbells (born July 1964, achieved title 1965), presumably photograhed by Fall’s when she established a breed bitch CC record).

Other notable canine photographers….

Diane Pearce.

Strident, loud and generally always laughing, Diane Pearce was always accompanied by her partner, Marjorie, and their exotic British longhair cat, which was so tranquil as to be virtually comatose, and was perfectly happy to present itself as bait to get a dog’s attention. For those dogs that considered cats in an amicable light ( which mine did), it would be Marjorie’s task to hold the cat as near the dog as was safe for both parties. Often, I experienced Marjorie gently swinging said cat inches from my dogs’ nose as Diane barked out her orders to us all. Diane’s preferred medium was Black and White and she captured some iconic shots of show posed dogs across a number of breeds.

Sally Ann Thompson……

Not generally a photographer to be found at shows, most of her work being undertaken for books on behalf of publishing houses.
She was the complete antithesis to Diane Pearce, in that she was a calm, quiet, work focused photographer.
Not generally taking show posed shots, she endeavoured to capture the essence of a breed, often in a naturalistic environment.
She kept a few Norfolk Terriers, and thus had an excellent eye for a dog.
She set the bar that she would photograph the ‘greats’ in a breed, and therefore one was approached by her for a ‘shoot’, rather than you asking her.

Carol Ann Johnson……..

Carol Ann, rose as heiress apparent to Diane Pearce, and in time became the ‘go to’ photographer for top quality, imaginative canine photography. I would say she definitely saw photography as an art form and you could spend a couple of hours whilst she set up a shot, got the dog in the best pose, ran off some random shots, and all before the final shoot through occurred ! Her patience with dogs ( and people) was fulsome.

She also undertook commissions for dog books, including , the somewhat ( in it’s time) controversial, The Toy Manchester Terrier, for which she photographed some from the Reeberrich kennel ( and elsewhere). The photograph showing an ETT scaling over a gate is Ch Reeberrich Velvett.

Carol Ann, returned a couple of years later to photograph some of my Lowchen for a book on the breed in the same publisher’s series.

Her partner, Juliet Cunliffe, a writer, wrote text for some of the books

There have, of course, been many other canine photographers, and still are some.

In closing I would say, while it’s fine taking snapshots of your dogs, it is worthwhile having an excellent one done, that you would not be embarrassed to see in a book of champions. That may well be one you can take yourself, but if you don’t have a talent for photography ask someone who does.

By Johnny Richardson (Reeberich)