Sometimes art is about technique, or style, or composition. Sometimes its about beauty or information.
And sometimes its about saving lives and changing attitudes.
Raleigh, NC-based photographer Shannon Johnstone's current show Landfill Dogs at Raleigh's Designbox features beautifully composed and rendered images -- of dogs. The show is up at Designbox, at 307 West Martin Street, in Raleigh's warehouse district, through July 26th, 2013.
What gives all these images a special energy is that when these images were made these dogs were abandoned dogs, living in Wake County's animal shelter and facing euthanasia if they did not soon find a home.
Johnstone is active in the movement for the humane treatment of animals, especially in regard to the problems that arise from animal overpopulation. Dogs and cats are cute and cuddly, except when people tire of them. At that point, they become, as Johnstone puts it, "just another waste stream."
These images are part of a project Johnstone has taken on to bring awareness to the problem of animal overpopulation and to give a few of the dogs who have been abandoned by their owners one final chance at a home and a life of love and care.
She has been photographing dogs from Wake County's animal shelter since late 2012 -- one a week -- and posting her photographs to a Facebook page, here. Her images bring attention to the plight of these animals.
She makes these images at the site of one of Wake County's landfills, this one a site closed and made into parkland. She chose this site, she says, for two reasons.
First, because animals that are abandoned and wind up in the animal shelter will eventually be put to death, their bodies ending up buried in a landfill. In Wake County the animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects our carelessness with pets; we in effect throw them away when they cease to please us.
The second reason is that the landfill where Johnstone photographs these animals is no longer an active landfill, but one that has been turned into parkland. This repository for trash has become a pleasant place to be.
To Johnstone, the site of her work "offers a metaphor of hope," since "a place of trash . . . has been transformed into a place of beauty." Johnstone hopes people who see her images will see "the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures."
For at least some of these dogs, Johnstone's work has made a difference. most of the ones she has photographed have found homes.
Johnstone's work is ongoing.