The Portraitsphere : Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs

Ciara from Wake County Animal ShelterCiara from Wake County Animal Shelter

UPDATE 12/04/13: ABC News with Diane Sawyer aired a special segment tonight about Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs project! You can watch it here.

Well it’s been a while, but at long last it’s time to head out into the Portraitsphere! What makes this one especially wonderful is that we hit the TRIFECTA! We’re seeing some beautiful photography featuring very photogenic dogs, and the goal is to save their lives. Shannon Johnstone is a photographer in Raleigh, North Carolina and she’s in the middle of a remarkable project that will pretty much guarantee her own sainthood: since the end of 2012 she’s been visiting the Wake County Animal Shelter once a week and will continue to do so until early 2014, each time taking one dog in desperate need of finding a home out to the grassy landfill open space for a few hours. The dog gets a taste of freedom, of hope…of just maybe. She photographs them playing and panting and smiling, and they become a part of her project titled Landfill Dogs. Then they are posted to her Facebook page dedicated to the project, and so far 92% of them have found forever homes.

I chose the photos above to kick off this post, it’s the beautiful grinning girl Ciara and Shannon tells me that she “has the most need right now”. We know what that means. They say she’s a little star, the sweetest and cleanest of the bunch, top notch in maintaining her own kennel. She just wants love. And life. The following photos feature the other dogs that are still waiting for that special someone, and if you’d like more information on any (or all!) of them, you can contact the Wake County Animal Shelter here.

Roscoe from Wake County Animal Shelter

This guy’s name is Roscoe.

Karsten from Wake County Animal Shelter

Karsten is doing that model-tossing-the-head thing.

Greyson from Wake County Animal Shelter

Greyson is a cool cat.

Marcy from Wake County Animal Shelter

Marcy says she could get used to the good life!

Ringo from Wake County Animal Shelter

Ringo thinks he prefers the great outdoors.

I want to share Shannon’s statement here about her project:

“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 receives 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.”

Now to wrap up our visit to the Portraitsphere, here are more photos of dogs taken by Shannon that did find that last chance because of her courage to face this harsh reality and make a huge difference. You can help by sharing this post on Facebook, or by following Shannon’s Landfill Dogs Facebook page directly here and sharing her weekly photographs with your friends.

From Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon Johnstone

Additional information on Shannon Johnstone and more of her work can be found on her website here.

All images used courtesy and copyright Shannon Johnstone.

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9 thoughts on “The Portraitsphere : Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs

  1. Thank you. Thank you for caring so much for these sweet babies. Your link is getting shared all over facebook, and I am so happy your mission is bringing forever homes to these fabulous beings. I too, fall in love everyday with a pound puppy. Bless you.

  2. There is an irony to the fact that in the photographs some dogs are off-leash. They could run away …escape their possible fate …but they stay …as if knowing that the camera might be the way out.

    • Hi Rita, I read on the photographer’s Facebook page that she uses Photoshop to remove the leashes in her images. I do wonder if some of the dogs would stay with her off-leash, bonding to someone who has shown them kindness. In any case, for Shannon’s sake and ours, it’s lovely to see them as if they were free, safe and truly happy. Thank you for your comment and reading my post.

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