Martin Usborne’s heartbreaking photos of dogs in cars speak to humans’ fear of abandonment

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“I like the idea of darkness with humour,” Martin tells us. “I’m drawn to chiaroscuro shadows, to colours emerging from near blacks, to the possibilities that lie in hidden corners. At the same time I don’t want to disappear up my own arse, which is also, presumably quite dark. I recognise that in darkness there has to be light, some humour.” Martin explains that the images were inspired by his own anxieties and fears and his own “long tortuous battles with depression”. “However dramatic those battles felt, there is also ridiculousness when you look back,” he says. “Depression can lead to an intoxication with the self, which can get you into some insane mental contortions, like the biggest dogs in the smallest cars. We all take ourselves too seriously.”

’The series was originally published as a large-scale art book with Kehrer Verlag, but with their blessing Martin made the decision to re-release it as a smaller book with Hoxton Mini Press (the publishing house he runs with his wife Ann) to reach a new audience. “I’m really interested in making smaller books at better prices which appeal beyond the usual specialist crowd of buyers,” Martins says.

In terms of the book’s impact, he feels that it will probably do little more than melt some hearts, but in a parallel universe, he’d like it to encourage people to reflect on their relationship with animals and how we often silence them unwittingly, as farm animals, in zoos, as pets and of course, as food. “In this universe, it would also make a good deal of people reflect on those hidden ‘animal’ parts of themselves and in so doing, the world would become more peaceful and happier,” he continues. “But in reality your readers will go straight back to their ham sandwich and fair enough, I say. I used to love ham too.”

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