Alexandra (for any none South Africans reading this) is a suburb in Johannesburg spanning 6.91 square kms and is home to approximately 180,000 people. The average household income in Alex is in the region of R800/$55 per month, so whilst it isn’t the most poverty stricken area in South Africa, life is pretty tough for many people. Most homes in Alex have at least four people living in them and most of the households in Alex have dogs.


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Given the low income levels of households in Alex you’d think the dogs are neglected and unhappy right? Wrong. I work closely with the Sandton SPCA who provide animal welfare education and veterinary care in the form of mobile clinics in Alexandra every three months. The mobile clinic programme provides vaccinations, de-worming, flea treatment and health care for the animals of Alex for free, so it is a vital service for the community. Out of a huge turnout of 350 dogs per mobile clinic, we see between 5 and 10 dogs that are seriously neglected or unwell. The vast majority are well cared for and are seen as important members of the family.

At the last mobile clinic in February, I set up a photo booth area and shot portraits of the Alex residents and their dogs who came along for vaccinations and health checks. I wanted to put names to the faces who visit (collecting names and contact details in the chaos was a challenge) and also gift each person with a photo of themselves and their dog/s. It’s far easier to relate to photographs when you know a bit about the person in the picture, where they live and why they are being photographed. These images will form part of a photographic exhibition being held in Johannesburg on 18th August 2016.

More info: emmaobrien.com

Thando and Shigi – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Simanga and Tommy – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Young man and his puppy – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Katiego and Gadafi – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Ngobani and Shephard – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Siboniso and Rex – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Danger and his owner – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Blacky and Nicky with their owner – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Syabonga and Jimmy – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Young man and his dog – Alexandra, Johannesburg