Michael Crouser exhibits a selection of gelatin silver prints, some as large as 30 x 40 inches, in which he captures images of dogs as they have seldom been seen before. Over the course of several years the photographer documented the frenetic world of urban dog parks, but in these images there’s no evidence of the pet’s owners. Within the chain-linked enclosures, dogs of all sizes and breeds cavort in an arena where codes of conduct are shed in a grand display of unharnessed energy. Through his skillful camera angles, tight framing and atmospheric lighting, Crouser has created images of dogs that vacillate from the endearing and humorous to the uncanny and disturbing.
In many of the works, Crouser has captured these creatures with their contorted muscular bodies, glaring eyes and ferocious teeth displayed. In these moments of wild abandon, it is difficult to perceive that these are dogs at play. Within this chaotic arena, the photographer has become invisible as struggles for dominance, glimpses of fear and feats of strength and agility play out on the dirt-filled center stage. Crouser reminds us that when left alone in the company of other canines, the animal impulses of our domesticated companions prevail and that “they practice in their play what nature has said they must know.” The resonance of the Dog Run images lies within Crouser’s unique ability to capture these contradictions—moments of domestication and the innate wildness of “man’s best friend.”
Crouser has taught at the International Center of Photography in New York, the Minneapolis Photo Center and the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. His book Dog Run was listed as a top ten photography book of the year by the International Photography Awards, Photo District News and Communication Arts.
Admission to the Museum of Art is FREE in 2013 thanks to the generosity of Penobscot Financial Advisors.