One Man and His Dog
Photographer and writer Ursula Roxy Aitchison is the niece of the late artist Craigie Aitchison, who used to paint his own dogs in much of his work. ‘They accompanied him everywhere,’ Aitchison recalls. She is currently working on a book, People And Their Dogs, from which the above images are extracted. ‘I want to capture this bond that people have and hold onto, tightly, with their four-legged friends,’ she explains. Aitchison’s work has been supported by The Kennel Club, and several portraits were displayed at the National Portrait Gallery for the launch of the club’s Pets in Portraits hardback book earlier this year. Here, she tells us more about her work.
Where are you based?
South West London, although I’m a country girl at heart.
What else have you done in your career?
From the age of 16, I’ve been a photographer. However, when I was much younger I had dreamt of becoming a vet… so it’s a wonderful outcome now to be working with animals so much.
Why do you take pictures of dogs?
A dog provides a fascinating window into the lives of the people who surround it: if you watch somebody’s pet, you can learn a lot about the life and style of its owner. Dogs also photograph beautifully. And I don’t think it’s possible to have a dull day when photographing a dog.
What inspired a book of dog/owner portraits?
Whenever I saw Craigie, he was with his herd of Bedlington terriers; after he died, whenever I thought of him, the picture in my mind’s eye wouldn't be complete without them. And yet there were very few photographs of the two for them together. The idea sort of sprang on me then.
I’m still figuring out what it is about dogs and their owners that makes the relationship so special. From what I can see, it is the unrequited love they give, the unquestionable adherence that disarms even the most hardened human. Dogs live their lives in tandem with us and this cements something between the two.
What is your dream dog?
Apart from my faithful hound Hugo (and I will have to cover his eyes while I say this), I would love a fox hound. Sadly, I don’t feel I could accommodate one when while I live in London.
If Town and Country magazine were a dog, what breed would it be?
It would be a deer hound. Magnificent and noble in both form and character. He is refined but not afraid to indulge his more boisterous side. Sir Walter Scott called the deer hound ‘a most perfect creature of heaven’.