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DOGS ON FILM: A Blog

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Another Great Sunday at SOWA Arts Market

I spent another wonderful (and warm, yet breezy) Sunday at the SOWA Arts Market on Sunday August 21 in Boston's South End. The market is located at 365 Albany St/450 Harrison Ave in a big shaded parking lot, and happens at the same time as an amazing Vintage Market (inside the large brick building), a farmer's market and Open Studios for the many, many talented artists inside the 450 Harrison building. There's so much going on in such a small area, it's a really wonderful way to spend your Sunday in Boston. And it's dog friendly! 

So, leash up your dog and come stop by my Boston dog photography (pop-up) gallery at the Sowa Arts Market. It's a chance to stop in and say hello to my assistant and I in person, chat about your dog, talk about dog art and dog photography, flip through my portfolios, pick up a card and some info, and even learn more about booking a session. And if you don't have a dog or aren't even considering photographing your dog, you're still invited! It's a great day for chit chat and meeting lots of new dog lovers in Boston. I often meet dog owners from San Francisco and Los Angeles as well. 

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Grappling With Our Biggest Fears: Saying Farewell

If you were to ask me right now what five things I am most afraid of, I guarantee you that watching my dog (Pancake) pass away would be high up on the list. It’s a fear that all of us dog owners are very familiar with, some more than others. It’s an inevitability that comes with the territory- loving a dog means signing yourself up for losing that very same dog. And for some reason, it’s an issue that is never talked about. 

Two old Doxins photographed in San Francisco. Those ears!

Two old Doxins photographed in San Francisco. Those ears!

Our society as a whole struggles with talking about death, so it’s no surprise that we have a hard time talking about our feelings around companion animals and death. As a photographer who’s job it is to observe the dog/human relationship every single day, it’s very clear to me that the short life cycles of our dogs is part and parcel of the whole experience. Don’t get me wrong- I wish Pancake would live forever. Literally. I’d be incredibly happy if I knew he would live another 50 years by my side. But there is something so powerful and almost frantic about our awareness that dogs don’t live forever. It forces us to confront – if even in the slightest bit- the reality that one day we all will have to bid farewell to our beloved canine companions. And I believe that makes the dog/human bond so much more intense.

 

The majority of my clients have had many dogs over their lifetimes, so they’ve already experienced the pain of that loss. Yet, although they know that bringing a new dog into their lives will inevitably mean having to say goodbye, they sign themselves up for that loss anyway. And I believe that is because the power of loving our dogs is so much more unforgettable and live-changing and spirit-lifting than the deep sadness of watching them pass on. We humans are self-aware beings, and over the generations and generations that have come since we began living side by side with canines we have loves and lost an immense number of companion animals. Still- we humans are so deeply bonded with the canine race that we are willing to experience sadness and loss over and over and over again if only in return for the privilege of getting to share our lives with this one creature we simply cannot live without. 

An old Boston Terrier photographed in Boston, at a beautiful apple orchard. 

An old Boston Terrier photographed in Boston, at a beautiful apple orchard. 

My dog is old and sick, and so many of my clients’ dogs are also old and sick. Often times clients commission me just weeks or months before their dogs pass away- they know the end is near, they can just feel it. And I’m honored to help them wrap their dog’s final days up in as much love as possible, capturing moments and gazes and everyday heart-warming minutia so that when the day comes that they must say goodbye- it’s the beautiful portraits we’ve made that will truly last forever alongside their memories. 

A very deeply loved senior Chocolate Lab, photographed in Sonoma, CA not long before he crossed the rainbow bridge. What a moving photography session. 

A very deeply loved senior Chocolate Lab, photographed in Sonoma, CA not long before he crossed the rainbow bridge. What a moving photography session. 

So if you’ve been thinking about booking a fine art dog photography session for a while now, but have been putting it off for a handful of totally valid reasons- I want you to know that I understand. But I also understand what it feels like to be afraid of losing your beloved companion, and I want you to know that my job as an artist is to help you through this really difficult and emotional experience. I’ve felt those feelings, I’ve experienced that loss before, I’ve hugged clients close after hearing about their dogs’ passing. Stopping to honor your dog while there is still time is honestly one of the most powerful things you can do- not only for your dog, but really for yourself. It’s an experience you’ll never forget, and one that will leave you with new, fond memories and beautiful photographs that will keep that dog’s spirit present forever.

 

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News Stories That Pull at the (Dog) Heartstrings

We all know that pet-related news stories attract A LOT of eyes. In the midst of the serious, challenging, stressful and upsetting news of our contemporary world, it's no surprise that heartwarming articles that feature pets doing amazing things are read constantly online and in print. 

Here are two amazing articles about the dog/human bond that I love. I shared them on my Facebook page and it looks like everyone else enjoyed them too! Click on the images to read the full articles. 

A stray dog finds his forever human while that human is in the middle of an enormous cross country race! Such a good one. 

A beautiful Doodle that greets mourners and family members at a funeral home. A real tear-jerker and a beautiful story. 

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What's So Unique About Your Printed Photographs?

Not everyone knows why I take the time to print and mat all my photographs by hand. It's such a traditional approach to dog photography, and one that no other dog photographers use. So- why do I take the time to print and mat my photographs? Every other photographer in the market lets a print lab handle all their print orders. Other photographers offer loose prints, and canvas wraps and photos on mugs. Why don’t I? Here's the answer:

Signing and matting prints in the studio. 

Signing and matting prints in the studio. 

Though it might not seem like it, when you send your photos to a lab to be printed you are not getting a high quality product. Whether you’re sending some great shots from your last vacation to Walmart or your local trusted photo lab, the end result is simply a poor quality print on poor quality paper that won’t last very long. Not only that- you simply won't cherish it. It will get tossed in a drawer and bent and smudged and forgotten about. Even when the pros send their prints out, it’s nothing to be impressed with. Why is that? Well, because you’re letting someone else (the lab technician, for example), decide where the tones and colors in your image should fall, and most likely your prints are being printed on everyday cheap photo paper. Or worse- canvas! Or even worse- put into a calendar!

Here’s why I control every detail of production from the choice of my photo papers, to the tonality and color structure of printing, to the exact thickness and color of my mats, to the archival handling and cutting of my mat board to the signing of each and every one of my dog portraits, to the shipping and handling of each final package right to my client’s door- it’s because I care deeply about the craft of photography and want my clients to receive the highest quality printed photographs possible. 

Another large Gallery size print, signed and ready to be sleeved and boxed up. 

Another large Gallery size print, signed and ready to be sleeved and boxed up. 

Detail of signed prints. 

Detail of signed prints. 

The majority of photographers on the market today- from wedding photographers to baby photographers to pet photographers- have no clue how to properly print or color match or mat a photograph. Either they never learned, or- most likely- they simply don’t care. It’s so much easier to just shoot digitally, use some auto-tuned filter you bought off the internet for $20 to ‘edit’ your photos, and then send them off to some enormous print lab that deals with thousands of prints a day. The result is that the prints those photographers are ‘making’ for their clients are simply nothing special at all.  The photographer was hardly even involved in the creation of those prints, let alone did they care enough to create a high quality fine art product. What the client ends up with is an experience that is far from extraordinary, and cheaply made photo prints that lack an artist's touch. 

When clients commission me for a fine art dog photography session, they are investing a serious amount of money. And I charge a lot for my prints- much more than any other photographer in my niche. That’s not just hot air. I do it because I am spending hours and hours creating these beautiful art pieces for my clients- from processing film to processing digital images, from editing photographs on the computer using a digital work flow that I’ve developed myself after years of fine tuning and practice which matches exactly what I would do in a darkroom setting, to working extremely closely with my local master printer – from selecting the perfect thick archival fiber paper (after testing countless others), to developing a gorgeous fine-tuned two-layer warm-tone filter profile that matches the old Ilford fiber papers I used to use in the darkroom to make silver gelatin prints, to cutting each and every window mat and backing for every print, to ordering my supplies directly so that I can control and handle every minute step along the way. And having the confidence to sign each matted photograph and include a Certificate of Authenticity. All of these countless steps have to be very carefully followed before a client’s print is good enough for me to let it go. If it is not totally perfect- if there is one scratch on the print (which happens because, hey, we’re human), or one spec of dark fiber in the mat board- that print will be done again until it is flawless. People have come to expect a really high level of quality and care from my studio, and I am always working hard to meet those expectations (and beyond). 

Now, when you send off your quickly ‘edited’ digital files to a big photo lab (the ones you edited on your phone or saved from Instagram), you simply can’t get anywhere near the quality I can get when I follow my traditional process. 

For me, it’s all about respecting the craft, and respecting my clients enough to give them the very best. And after all these years, not one other photographer in the dog photography world can match my prints, nor have they tried. When clients want a real piece of art, they come to me. And I'm so happy they did. 

Film from a recent shoot. Everything gets archived, sleeved, and filed away in the studio. 

Film from a recent shoot. Everything gets archived, sleeved, and filed away in the studio. 

I hand-cut every mat board that I use. That means doing a lot of math to figure out custom window layouts!

I hand-cut every mat board that I use. That means doing a lot of math to figure out custom window layouts!

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Last Dog Photography Sessions of The Year!

I know it's only the end of August, but that means the end of Summer, and that means Fall is around the corner, and then all of a sudden it's Thanksgiving and then it's December and before you know it 2016 is over. For my calendar, at least, things move that fast. So for any of you who have been thinking about scheduling a Fine Art Dog Photography Session with me- whether you've been pondering it for the past two years, or just the past few months- NOW is your chance to book the very last dog photography sessions of the year.

Here is my last availability of 2016:

BOSTON: open scheduling September through December 15. 
NEW YORK: September 9, 10, 11 (full) + November 4, 5, 6
SAN FRANCISCO: October 6, 7, 8
LOS ANGELES: October 9, 10 (full)
BOSTON: open scheduling September through December 15. 

The first is always a quick and easy Creative Call so we can get to know each other, and talk about your dog and my process. You can book that by clicking the button below. It's free, and truly commitment-free. 

 

2017 dog photography sessions will start in February. Keep an eye on my Travel Page or social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) to keep up with those dates once they are posted. 

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How Did You Become a Dog Photographer?

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How Did You Become a Dog Photographer?

"So, how did you become a dog photographer?"

I get asked this all the time. Sometimes daily. Certainly at every networking event I go to, dinner party, and even client Creative Meeting. Even though it’s a story I’ve told literally hundreds and hundreds of times, it’s a tall tale that I always enjoy recounting.

Here’s how it typically starts out. I’m enjoying myself with new acquaintances at a business meet-up for local entrepreneurs, or maybe having dinner and meeting a few new faces, and the question inevitably comes up: "So, what do you do?" "I’m a photographer." And most of the time people will say "Oh, so you photograph weddings and stuff?" And I say "Oh no no, not weddings! I’d go crazy! I study the human-animal bond. I photograph dogs- mostly private commissions, some editorial projects, from coast to coast." And then….. of course "A dog photographer? Really? But what do you really do? It’s not your full time job is it?" When I assure them that, yes, it is my full time job and, yes, I’m pretty good at it, the next question is always "How did you become a dog photographer!?" So, here’s how I became one of the most well-known dog photographers in the country.

I had recently moved to San Francisco from the East Coast at the ripe old age of 23, and was enjoying a life of low-responsibility and tons of fun in my new city. I needed a job, of course, and a friend of a friend worked at a dog daycare in San Francisco. They lied and told the boss that I had experience with dogs – at that time, I was actually a bit afraid of dogs after a dog-bite when I was younger, and had no clue whatsoever about dog behavior. I was completely clueless. But I applied to work at the dog daycare, and lied about having dog experience (sorry karma- I know lying is bad). I got the job somehow, and on the first day of work I got thrown into the big dog play group. Pretending to be cool, I walked into the large play yard and in seconds was surrounded by hundreds of big barking dogs (in reality, it was probably more like 30 dogs, but who’s counting?).

I’ll admit— I was scared. I froze up, and didn’t know what to do. I thought- this was a real mistake. I don’t know anything about dogs! And all these big dogs are barking at me and what am I going to do? All of a sudden a big, beautiful brown pitbull named Lennox calmly approached me, parting the sea of loud, curious dogs. He walked right up to me so quietly, and looked right into my eyes. I looked at Lennox, and he looked at me, and he could tell I needed help. So he turned and walked away, leading the barking pack of dogs to the other corner of the play yard, quieting them down. There was a lull, and Lennox turned and looked back at me to say ‘You’re safe here. You’re one of us now.’ And from that very moment, I was hooked. I was so taken by the power that exists within that dog/human space that I have been working with dogs every day since. And that’s about ten years. It’s a true story.

 A few months later I starting taking a couple classes at City College in San Francisco on lighting and darkroom printing, just to advance my skills. Soon after, I weaseled my way into a coveted position as apprentice at the city’s only fine art family photography studio and every moment that I was not working at the dog daycare facility, I was either taking a photography class or apprenticing at the studio. Part time apprenticing turned into full time apprenticing, which — just one year later— turned into an offer to become an official associate of the photography studio.

Just a few months into my apprenticeship one of my mentors suggested I try photographing dogs, since I did not have much interest (or skill) in photographing families. I thought photographing dogs was such a silly idea, because the only dog photography I’d seen up to that point was cheesy and poorly done. But with his encouragement I took my Hasselblad and a few rolls of black and white film (my tools of choice then, and still today) and photographed a friend’s Pug, Gus. It was one of the best shoots I’ve ever done, and a print of Gus still hangs in my studio today. After that, I jumped in with both feet, with the one simple goal of recreating the look of contemporary dog photography, of turning it into fine art. With my strong fine art portrait background and love for the dog-human bond, becoming a full time fine art dog photographer was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

A photo of Gus- the very first dog I ever photographed. 

A photo of Gus- the very first dog I ever photographed. 

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SOWA Arts Market in South Boston

I've decided to bring my mobile fine art dog photography gallery to South Boston's famous SOWA Open Market. It's an extremely well curated collection of local Boston-area artisans, makers, and a few excellent food trucks just to keep the guests (and vendors) going. I did my first Sunday SOWA Open Market a few weekends ago and I literally had a blast. 

As always, I use my vendor space as a simple and inviting pop-up gallery. Guests stroll in to take a look at the framed work on the walls, flip through my portfolios, and chit chat with my assistant and I. We always end up talking about their dogs, and hearing so many beautiful stories about that deeply moving human-animal bond. Everyone walks away with some information about scheduling a private Boston dog photography session with me in Boston (or San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York) and those important new connections become fans of the studio, supporters, and of course new dog photography clients as well. 

And here's a great feature the organizers did on their blog recently about my Boston dog photography: http://www.sowaboston.com/sowa-news/2016/4/15/sowa-vendor-spotlight-jesse-freidin

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A Poodle in San Francisco

Dog Photographer San Francisco

Dog Photographer San Francisco

This San Francisco dog photography session was a gift that a favorite old dog photography client of mine gave to one of their friends. There's nothing I love more than a great client referral, and I had so much fun working with this group of dogs: one gorgeous and sweet standard Poodle, and a tiny Chihuahua/Terrier mix who clearly ran the house. I took advantage of the beautiful dappled light and bright open shade in the back yard to create warm, comfortable and intimate dog portraits and really love the moments and connection that I got to witness during this session. Here are a few of my favorite dog photos from this San Francisco session:

Jesse Freidin Photographer

Jesse Freidin Photographer

San Francisco Pet Photographer

San Francisco Pet Photographer

Dog Photography San Francisco

Dog Photography San Francisco

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A Chihuahua In New York

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A Chihuahua In New York

New York Dog Photography

New York Dog Photography

This is Charlie, the 16 year old Chihuahua/Boston Terrier mix that lives in New York. I photographed him in New York a few weeks ago along with his wonderful, loving family. This is such an important moment in this senior dog's life, and his family was smart to schedule a New York dog photography session now because, though Charlie can still get around and chase squirrels as well as the next dog, he is a senior dog and his health is failing. 

 

Pet Photographer in New York

Pet Photographer in New York

Charlie, like so many other older dogs, was the first 'child' in the family. He was an 'only child' for many, many years but now lives with a great 10 year old brother who loves him and tries his best to gently respect Charlie's senior dog lifestyle. Photographing this dog and his entire family in New York was such a special project, and I can't wait to help this client curate a beautiful collection of black and white dog portraits for their home. 

New York Dog Photographer

New York Dog Photographer

New York Pet Photographer

New York Pet Photographer

Photographing senior dogs is always a truly moving and inspiring project- for me, as well as for my dog photography clients. Don't wait until it's too late. We've only got a finite amount of time with our animals companions, and every day counts. 

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Boston Dog Photography Session with 3 Handsome Siblings

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

These three siblings were so sweet and fun to work with during a recent Boston dog photography session. All rescues, the two small Terrier mixes came first as a bonded pair. Then a few years later Blue- the Pit Bull/Lab/Hound etc mix joined the family. Now they all get along wonderfully and play and snooze in the sun like loving siblings. 

This Boston Dog Photography session was so much fun, and the beautiful shady back yard gave me lots of perfect dappled light to play with. Here are a few more favorite dog portraits from this session- enjoy!

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

Boston Dog Photography

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