Martin Usborne, Dogs in Cars

There is life in the darkest places inside us. The Silences of Dogs in Cars by Martin Usborne is a real treasure’s trove; it rarely happens to run into such a unique work.

I visited the show at the Little Black Gallery in Chelsea upon suggestion of Sue Steward. I met Sue at the beginning of April when she just reviewed the exhibition for the Evening Standard, and she candidly confessed how surprisingly interesting this body of work revealed to her. I wanted myself to see what it was that amazed her so much.


Animal portraiture is one of the most used & abused genre; it’s difficult to find work that actually justifies the effort and shines as original. I find Dogs in Cars striking not only for the visual sharpness of the imagery but mostly because it doesn’t require any explanations to get to you. The emotional and psychological content of the work is completely independent from any theoretical or factual background.

Through this body of work, Martin Usborne staged and re-enacted an episode of his childhood that deeply affected him: when he was about four years old his parents left him alone inside the car. Usborne doesn’t recall the exact details but the fear of being alone and unheard, as well as the uncertainty of the time that it would last. Although a loved and cherished child, the photographer lived it as a traumatic experience. Unable to cope and process the ghost of abandonment as a child, Usborne chose animals to play the role of man establishing a moving parallel between the two.


The psychological subtlety and piercing intensity of his work is disturbing and its contrasting beauty makes it an acid candy to swallow. Each image in the series conveys a different feeling and depicts a different—and sometimes unbearable—shade of that emotional state that only those who dared explore the heart of darkness know.

The Silences of Dogs in Cars is also Usborne’s first major monograph released by Kehrer Publishers in 2012.

Written by Elisa Badii

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