If wet noses, wagging tails, rousing barks and tireless chasing of the ball are among your life's delights, you'll want to see A Thousand Hounds: A Walk with the Dogs Through the History of Photography.
But the show, on display at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, isn't just for dog lovers. It's an effortless and pleasant way to learn just how far photography has come in the last century and a half.
A Thousand Hounds, organized by the Cygnet Foundation in New York, is based in part on the book A Thousand Hounds, published in 2000. Its more than 150 pictures reach all the way back to 1840 and include daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and other early camera efforts, in addition to elegant modern silver gelatin prints and digital color works.
Many of the biggest names in photography are represented: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White, William Henry Fox Talbot, Andre Kertesz. So are some of the biggest names in dog photography: William Wegman, renowned for portraits of his Weimaraners, Elliott Erwitt and Keith Carter, whose "Lost Dog" (1992), a closeup of a large dog with sad eyes, is among the best in show.
Yet some of the most endearing images are by shooters known only as Anonymous. One is "Give a Dog a Ride" (1931), in which a bicyclist carries a dachshund in his coat while a larger dog rides on the man's back, his head on the man's head. Another, from 1935, is a formal portrait of two boxers. They could be two small boys posing for their school picture.
An English photographer identified only as Cartland got six fold-eared, spotted dogs -- their breed is hard to determine -- to sit still in 1887 for a winsome portrait called "Wat, Dot, Teaser, Skip, Fly and Nip." It's a gem.
Moving closer to the present, the Kertesz offering, "The Concierge's Dog" (1926), is a marvel of composition, showing a sleek spotted dog leaning over a hotel balcony. So is Dario Mitidieri's "See the Boy, See the Bomb" (1991), in which an African boy and his dog sit side by side atop a rusty-looking bomb.
In Richard Avedon's "Untitled"(1965), a freckle-faced boy rests his head on the haunches of his black standard poodle. The child is cute enough, but it's the poodle at the back of the picture that demands attention. Shown in profile -- with its head thrown back in a way that strangely recalls FDR -- the poodle appears to be laughing. Another poodle, this one tiny and white, also steals the scene in Charles H. Traub's "Rio" (1984), as it leaps up to try to interrupt a man and a woman embracing on the beach.
One wall of the exhibit is devoted to the dog as hero. It holds a few surprises, such as Gustave Le Gray's "Crimean War" (1856), showing an encampment of Russian soldiers. At the left of the frame, a small blur of white fur performs for one of the soldiers. In "German Army Retreat from Leningrad" (1944), by an unknown photographer, a black and white dog is seated front and center, while behind him, stretching across the horizon, are the snow-blurred backs of German soldiers. The dog's "What am I doing here?" expression is unmistakable.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "dog as hero" has been redefined by the animals who worked on rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center. Four pictures of those dogs can be seen here, including Preston Keres' "World Trade Center, September 15, 2001," showing a golden retriever, in gear and mask, being transported across a dark canyon that had been one of the towers.
Those pictures are sad, but some images in the exhibit are downright disturbing. Among these are Gilles Peress' "Sarajevo During the Siege" (1993), showing the decaying carcass of a dog in Bosnia, and Charles Moore's famous shot of police dogs attacking civil rights seekers in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963.
There are a few puzzles as well, such as Sandy Skoglund's "The Green House" (1990), a garish rendering of a room full of dog statues -- cocker spaniels, Chihuahuas and bloodhounds. It feels out of place.
On a much lighter note, there is Frances Clark's "Come Jump" (1958), a large color shot of a classroom at the "companion dog school." A schoolmarmish Dalmatian occupies the teacher's desk and a schipperke and a German shepherd (wearing a dunce cap) sit in the foreground. The pupils at their desks include three poodles, a border collie, a husky, a golden retriever and an Airedale terrier.
What: A Thousand Hounds
When: Through Dec. 11. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Catonsville. Parking available at nearby Walker Avenue garage.
Information: 410-455-2270, or online at umbc.edu / aok / main
Notes: An hourlong panel discussion on the exhibit is scheduled for tomorrow at 4 p.m. in the gallery. Panelists include photographer Keith Carter and the exhibit's co-curator, Raymond Merritt.