Dogs and their Dykes is redefining queer family and companionship

This community photo project by Nessie Appleton and Mair Howells is a heartwarming “online love letter to dykes, and the love for their dogs”.

3 July 2024

Initiated by photographer Nessie Appleton and creative director Mair Howells, Dogs and their Dykes is a documentary-style photo series and growing online community that aims to capture the connection between lesbians and queer people, and their furry companions. Nessie and Mair are “a lesbian couple, both born-and-bred south Londoners” who have been working on the community-based photo project since the beginning of 2024, when they set out on “redefining what family and companionship looks like”. The series is a tool for platforming people who “are not often at the forefront of mainstream media, amplifying their stories to foster greater visibility, acceptance, and understanding of queer representation”, shares Mair.

The pair’s idea to document this joyful corner of the queer community came about when Mair stumbled across an anthology called Cats and their Dykes when looking for image references for their work. “This anthology was filled with images of queer women and their animals and published in the 90s… Mair fell in love with it and it inspired them to create Dogs and Their Dykes”, says Nessie. Mair tells us that as a couple, the creative duo have “often discussed doing a project together” but it wasn’t till the discovery of this collection that they teamed up their skillsets with the aim to “capture the redefinition of family amongst the queer community” in Dogs and their Dykes.


Nessie Appleton and Mair Howells: Dogs and their Dykes (Copyright © Dogs and their Dykes, 2024)

The project’s Instagram page initially started out as an archive of images that the pair had found, and gathered of queer people and their dogs. This soon began to build a following, off the back of which Nessie and Mair began to document friends, and friends of friends, finally asking their newfound online community if anyone who has a furry friend would be interested in participating in the project. Their call for contributions was met with an enthusiasm that has led them down a trail of introductions to a bunch of new queer friends and their pets, each with a unique story and connection: “every person we meet we have taken something away”, says Mair.

With a hell of a lot of skill to get each dog to look directly into the lens, and some inspiration from classic family portraits, the series documents participants in the intimate comfort of their homes on sofas or on doorsteps, capturing a range of personalities. In some shots, it’s hard to ignore the apparent likeness between dogs and their owners... - “this theory is more true for some than others!”, says Nessie. Either way the series has created, in itself, a small community of queer people who love their dogs and formed the online space for “queer redefinition to exist, and be shared with pride”, that Nessie and Mair hoped for.

The pair have started to travel around the UK to shoot new participants for the series, but hope the pursuit of this photo-documentary project will gradually take them across the world. Nessie and Mair are also hoping to eventually exhibit the series (in a dog friendly space of course), bringing everyone involved together where even more “dog-loving queers can mingle with each other” – so make sure to watch out for that.

GalleryNessie Appleton and Mair Howells: Dogs and their Dykes (Copyright © Dogs and their Dykes, 2024)

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Nessie Appleton and Mair Howells: Dogs and their Dykes (Copyright © Dogs and their Dykes, 2024)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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