Feature Article

Where to Next for Resident Dog?

Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Rose Onans

Resident Dog – a passion project that took on a life of its own, selling out its first print run in mere months and prompting an outpouring of love that surprised even its creator, architectural photographer Nicole England. She reflects on the “overwhelming” response the future of Resident Dog as an ongoing project.

Flick even briefly through the pages of Resident Dog and it is easy to see why the book has captured its readers’ hearts. While the catalogue of titles that loosely make up the genre of ‘dog books’ have tended toward the overly sentimental or highly stylised, Nicole’s photography instead is content to capture the simple beauty of the ‘resident dogs’ in their architectural environments.

Reflecting on the past months since the book was released, Nicole says “I was definitely shocked by the response from people, I’ve been getting messages every day telling me how much joy the book has brought them”. In the working life of an architectural photographer, such an outpouring of emotion in response to one’s work is rare to say the least. “It was overwhelming”, Nicole says. “Receiving messages from people all around the world, it’s been incredible”.

Charlie in residence at his Blairgowrie home, designed by SJB Melbourne.

The dogs in the photographs are doing what they do best – napping in the sunniest spot in the house, surveying the kitchen bench for snacks or frolicking joyfully in the garden. With Nicole’s background as an architectural photographer, the dogs’ homes featured in the book are of the highest calibre. Many have been featured before in architectural media, yet in Resident Dog, even a well-known project takes on a new quality enlivened by the presence of the dog.

Flick even briefly through the pages of Resident Dog and it is easy to see why the book has captured its readers’ hearts.

This is perhaps why the book has struck such a chord. While architectural photography is by its very nature a slow and meticulous process that captures the architecture in a relatively static form, the presence of a dog provides not only a liveliness but a familiarity for the viewer. See an old kelpie stretched out on the couch and suddenly this beautiful yet rather removed design becomes a familiar and comfortable scene, the photograph reminding us of the essential purpose of architecture – to create shelter in which life takes place.

Bruno in his North Melbourne home designed by Kennedy Nolan.

Muddy checks the perimeter at his Balmain East home by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.

For Nicole, photographing Resident Dog taught her about “the spontaneity required to work with the dogs”, she says. “Even though each shot was set up, we still had to be quite quick. Architectural photography is not normally very spontaneous, I can easily spend half an hour to set up the shot, then there’s the waiting for the right light and shadow. With Resident Dog, I didn’t have that luxury!”.

“Receiving messages from people all around the world, it’s been incredible”.

While she quickly learnt the value of peanut butter in convincing a dog to stand in one spot, Nicole focused on shooting as she normally would. “The shoot was definitely directed by the dogs”, she reminisces. “If the dog was lying in a favourite sunny spot, that’s where we shot”. The result of this approach is the beautiful composition and focus of Nicole’s professional architectural photography combined with the element of the unexpected introduced by the dog, in many cases the antics of a dog transforming an otherwise-ordinary shot into something special. “In the editing process for the images, I always chose the random image with that unpredictability”, Nicole says.

April and Muffy getting up to their usual tricks in their South Yarra home designed by Zen.

Bergie in residence at his Hecker Guthrie home.

Now that the book has been released, with a reprint released in February, the question of the project’s future arises. A project that will surely never lose its joy, Nicole has continued photographing ‘resident dogs’ in their home and publishing the images on the Resident Dog blog and Instagram account. She remains unsure about the possibility of a second Resident Dog book, although, where the first book focuses exclusively on Australia, she says she is tempted by the possibility of a second volume capturing dogs all around the world. Another option is to shift from the residential to the studio, photographing art and design studios and their dogs.

While the precise form may yet to be determined, Nicole is clear that Resident Dog will continue – great news for dog and design lovers alike.

Cookie in his verdant Brisbane home by Cavill.

Eric the Yorkshire Terrier enjoys the outdoors at home designed by SJB Sydney.

Rita at her home designed by Karen Abernethy.

Scout, Diesel and Boston at home in Nulla Vale, architecture by MRTN.

Stewey surveying his domain at his house designed by Austin Maynard.

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