Charlotte Dumas has created many powerful photographic projects about humans’ relationship with animals, mostly the service role animals play in our society. One that is particularly heart-wrenching is Retrieved, portraits of the search-and-rescue dogs of 9/11 ten years later. Through FEMA, Dumas was able to track down fifteen of the nearly one hundred dogs that took part in the rescue operations in New York in Washington D.C. in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. She visited them and portrayed them in their homes, where they all still live with their handlers across the US. The dogs all share a beautiful vulnerability in old age while symbolizing the time that has passed since 9/11.

From the artist’s statement: On and after September 11, 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed close to a hundred search dogs along with their handlers—from a network of 26 active task forces from 18 different states—to both the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In the aftermath of the attacks the dogs searched day and night for survivors, making sure no one would be stranded in the rubble, while rescue workers and firemen slowly made their way through the chaos and debris.

In my memory, the photographs of these dogs that appeared in the newspapers stayed with me most strongly: a dog being transported in a stokes basket on cables suspended high over the wreckage; another dog intently searching while maneuvering over enormous bend beams; dogs receiving eye drops after and in between shifts. I can still recall these images clearly. The dogs searched and comforted, they gave consolation to anyone involved. Seeing these pictures, I was also comforted. They somehow emanated a spark of hope amidst this scene of destruction.

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