In the company of dogs

Isabelle Thibault

2017 - Ongoing

In October 2008, with my husband and our first son, we came on vacation to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It took us 18 hours to drive from Montreal, stopping every 3 hours, so I could breastfeed our child.

When we got here, I was automatically seduced by the long never ending empty beach, the ocean and the silence surrounding this beauty. Just a few human beings were sharing this desert of dunes and sand with us. Most of them were fishermen and their wives. Sitting all day long on small beach chairs, they seemed like statues watching their fishing lines.

After a few days observing the people, in between my child nap periods, I started to notice their way of life. Every morning, the fishermen would go to the beach, some of them as early as sunrise, with a mug of coffee and a cooler full of fishing bates. Their wives would then join them, a bit later in the morning. A lot of them had dogs. While the men were fishing, the women would sit and read. Then, they would leave for a long walk along the long beach, alone, with their dogs.

We were so seduced about this place that we came back year after year. Always in October. A second boy was born, and we brought him here, when he was only 5 months old. Stopping every 3 hours between Montreal and Cape Hatteras, to breastfeed. Year after year, I would observe the fishermen and their wives. Curious about their simple way of life. Always taking pictures, remotely. Then, I decided to go and meet them.

The first woman I talked to told me how happy she was, just being here. Simply enjoying the ocean and the beach. Doing almost nothing but contemplating the beauty of nature. She was retired and on vacation in Cape Hatteras for a month. Living with her dog and her husband in a RV, parked in the camping lot behind the dunes. She talked about her dog, its name, where she found it, how funny he was. I told her about the dogs I grew up with, a German Shepherd and a Black Labrador and how it made me happy. Then, she started to be very talkative, confessing very personal parts of her life. Like if sharing our love for dogs had opened a door and transformed us into close friends. I was listening to her, amazed by this new proximity with a perfect stranger.

This is when I started taking pictures of women and their dogs. I was doing it simply to capture their beauty and complicity with their animal, but after chatting with many of them over the years, always experimenting the same proximity, it became a project named “In the company of dog”.

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