Well-read dogs: Local canines featured in new book of photosPublished 12:05am Sunday, April 14, 2013
It seems like these days the South’s porches have gone to the dogs — literally.
In Natchez, the same can be said of its storefronts.
Photographer Nell Dickerson has recently published a book of portraits of dogs on their owner’s porches. Three of the photos in the finished work feature furry Natchez residents.
In her book, Dickerson writes that in the South before the advent of air-conditioning, the porch was a prominent architectural feature that served as the social center of most homes, but that since climate control devices have been introduced the porch has become the domain of the dog.
“I love the South and have a lifelong commitment to preserve its culture,” Dickerson said. “Both architecture and dogs manifest that rich, complex world that defines the South.”
In Natchez — as in other parts of the South — the social life of dogs expands beyond the porch, and Dickerson’s book looks not only at porch dogs but at what it calls house dogs, yard dogs, shop dogs, swing dogs, bench dogs, top dogs, under dogs and dock dogs.
Two of the pooches from the area that were featured in Dickerson’s book made it in because their social lives mirror that of their owners, with both work and play.
Sugar, the 8-year-old West Highland Terrier often known to haunt the stack at Turning Pages bookstore, met Dickerson in the shop.
“(Dickerson) was doing a book signing with us for a another book she had, and she asked me if she could take a picture of Sugar and if I knew anybody else who had dogs in the area,” Turning Pages owner Mary Emrick said.
Rather than take Sugar’s picture at the store, Dickerson photographed her on a bench on the 80-foot porch running the width of Emrick’s home.
“The porch is pretty big,” Emrick said. “We use it all the time for entertaining, and Sugar will go out with us and never leave the porch. She will watch the animals, the birds — there is a cat she really likes to watch.”
Emrick said Sugar took to the idea of being photographed right away.
“She takes over; wherever she is she thinks she is the star,” Emrick said.
“You say, ‘Look at the camera,’ and she will do exactly what she has to do — it is like she is trained.”
Unlike Sugar, another entrepreneurial canine, Butters — who can often be found at Brodeur Gallery on North Commerce Street — was photographed at work. The portrait shows Butters lounging on a couch in front of the gallery’s main display window, looking outward at the street.
Butters’ owner Kevin Brodeur said it’s not the first time Butters has been photographed as a shop dog in that window, but that he loved the idea of the book and the resulting portrait.
“My partner custom made that deck for her, and we actually get pictures from all over the world of her,” he said. “She is on the carriage tours, they actually point her out and say, ‘There’s Butters, looking at us.’”
A third local dog, Teeny Baby, is featured on the porch of what has become a Natchez landmark in recent years, Andrew and Lucy Preston’s well-decorated residence at 13 Madison St. The photo was taken when the house and yard were bedecked with American flags among the other decorative odds and ends.
Dickerson will be signing copies of the book at Turning Pages from 4 to 6 p.m. May 16.
During the book signing, Turning Pages will have several adoptable puppies from the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society on location, and a portion of the profits from the sale of the book will be given to the humane society, Emrick said.
“I have always been a big supporter of the humane society, and it is just a great fit with this book to do something at this time for the society,” she said.
For more information about the book, visit www.nelldickerson.com or www.blairpub.com/alltitles/porchdogs.htm.