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Stray dogs, Camberley Kate and misleading captions

2016 May 24
From an image by Evelyn Hofer at the Barbican exhibition Strange and Familiar.

From an image by Evelyn Hofer at the Barbican exhibition Strange and Familiar.

My attention was drawn to this image captioned “Stray Dogs” at the excellent Strange and Familiar photography exhibition currently at the Barbican as it was hung near an image of Club Row animal market where reputedly unsold dogs were taken away by the “man with the knife” for sale to vivisectors. At first I read the caption on the cart “stray dogs” ominously. It was only when I looked more closely that I noticed Camberley in the background and realised that this was an image of “Camberley Kate “, as Katherine Ward was known, about whom Kim Smallwood has written so effectively in his book Growl.

This was no vivisector but a kindly woman who took in abandoned dogs and cared for them from her meagre state pension. She took them into town on her little cart to raise funds. She was profiled in the Illustrated London News in the 1960s.  It would seem that this image by the German photographer Evelyn Hofer also dates from that time.

The exhibition’s subtitle was “Britain as Revealed by International Photographers”. It would have been helpful if more attention had been paid to being clear about the nature of such revelations!

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