Photo by Shannon Johnstone, from her series Landfill Dogs
I recently discovered the photography of Shannon Johnstone. If you're not familiar with her work, she has focused a lot of her time recently on the shelter population and euthanasia epidemic. One series of photos documenting what happens inside of animal control shelters is quite disturbing. Important I think, but disturbing. As you know, I like to focus on the positive, so while I find that series eye-opening, I don't recommend it for sensitive viewers. Here are links to Discarded Property and Shelter Life.
What I DO recommend for all viewers is her series, Landfill Dogs. I encourage you to visit the gallery. The images are lovely, joyful, and poignant. Johnstone really captures the beauty and potential of each dog with her stunning photography. Here is her artist's statement for Landfill Dogs:
"These are not just cute pictures of dogs. These are dogs who have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) I bring one dog from the county animal shelter and photograph him/her at the local landfill.
The landfill site is used for two reasons. First, this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home. Their bodies will be buried deep in the landfill among our trash. These photographs offer the last opportunity for the dogs to find homes.
The second reason for the landfill location is because the county animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty. I hope the viewer also sees the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.
As part of this photographic process, each dog receive a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of much needed individual attention. My goal is to offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same."
You can follow the Landfill Dogs series on Facebook.
Our dog Toby was rescued from an animal shelter in Fruit Heights, Utah. Luckily, it was not a high kill shelter, and he was allowed to be there for several weeks before he found us. Toby could have been a Landfill Dog. Instead, he was given a chance to fulfill his potential as a companion. Tyler often says, "Toby was the best decision we made together. After getting married of course."
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated."
Shannon Johnstone is doing her part to forward our moral progress. Her work has helped find homes for many worthy animals. Each of us should stop for a moment and ponder on what we can do as well.