When photographer Erik Carter first moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 2012, he noticed an unusual number of pit bulls in the area. One particularly caught his attention: a female with perpetually swollen teats that seemed like the neighborhood matriarch. A few months later, he saw her tied up outside a local bodega, and since he was carrying his camera, he took a picture. “She seemed both melancholic and satisfied, as if she knew she was the queen but her time was running out,” he told Hyperallergic. “Strangely enough, after I took that photo, I never saw her again.”
The canine portrait is Carter’s favorite of the ongoing series that’s followed, Leashes and Longing, which examines New Yorkers’ habit of parking their four-legged friends outside businesses while they shop or eat. “Some dogs walk around searching for their owner, testing the limits of the leash,” Carter observed. “Others lie down and rest. There’s only been a few times when I felt truly terrible about the treatment of a tied-up dog.”
To those who don’t own dogs, canines can sometimes seem like happy-go-lucky, one-dimensional characters — oblivious to the trials of living in a cramped, overworked city. Carter’s empathetic photographs show how their lives in the Big Apple can also be stressful and claustrophobic. “Sometimes I see a Jack Russell on a cobblestone street, far away from a park or any place where it can dispense of that incessant energy, and I wonder how it can possibly go about its day without running up the walls,” he said. “New York is a tough city, and I suppose the old motto of, ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere’ may apply to dogs too.”
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