New East Digital Archive

Hellhounds: photographer Leifur Wilberg Orrason’s modern take on ancient myth

8 January 2016

The inspiration for combining dark caves and guard dogs into one visual narrative came to Icelandic photographer Leifur Wilberg Orrason from the short story The Cave of the Dog written in 2009 by Michele Stepto. Its main subject is a cave near Naples where a deadly carbonic acid gas can be found, and where dogs were used to test the cave’s fatal properties. “It evokes memories from my travels to Lithuania where my father lives,” Wilber says. “He moved there to start a parquet factory and bought a German shepherd dog to guard it.” In Lithuania, Wilberg photographed numerous guard dogs chained to kennels, furiously barking at him in the night as if he were a burglar or a criminal. He then combined the pictures of dogs with photographs of Icelandic lava tube caves. This dark and fascinating underworld magically transforms each of the dogs in his photos into Cerberus, guarding the world of the dead. “One might say that the work is more about myself since I feel compassion towards the dogs’ lifestyle,” Wilberg adds. “The caves are dark and claustrophobic and therefore symbolic of the dog kennel. They embody the boredom and isolation of a dog’s daily life or symbolise its inner soul.”