/05 Animals

Martin Usborne

MUTE: the silence of dogs in cars

When I was four – or maybe a little older – I was left in a car. I don’t know when or for how long, maybe outside Tesco, probably for ten minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is, I wondered if anyone would come back.

Around the same age I remember seeing TV footage of a dog being put in a plastic bag and kicked. What upset me most was that the dog could not speak. It’s muteness terrified me.

I was a well-loved child and never abandoned, yet it is clear that both these experiences came from a deep fear of being alone and, somehow, without a voice. I still have those fears today and these pictures arose in my imagination of their own accord – as if willing to be photographed.

But after taking them something new appeared: I was not expecting to see the reactions from the dogs, some sad, some expectant, some angry. It was as if upon opening an old box of grey pencils I was surprised by the subtle shades inside. Maybe there is more life in the lonely places inside us than we think.

OK, I will stop writing now. Words can only take us so far: after all we are all animals.

Martin Usborne, October 2010