Dog Photography: On Style
People are always so surprised when I explain am that I'm a dog photographer— and then give a general description of my style. I typically say that I'm a fine art photographer studying the dog/human bond, which is in essence the quickest description of my work. But even after all these years of photographing dogs all over the country, and making strong work, and being involved in my wonderful dog/art community— people still look surprised when I even mention the word 'style' in relation to dog photography. And I just don't understand why.
For some reason, most people think that all dog photography has to look the same. And this makes no sense. Dog photography is a kind of photography, just like landscape photography, fashion photography, family photography, wedding photography, etc. In all those niches, it is completely acceptable for artists to differ in their creative approach and — surprise!— STYLE. Though the best styles get copied in all niches, the general public assumes that there are multiple ways to photograph a wedding creatively, and multiple ways to photograph a fashion campaign. But for some mysterious reason, when people think of dog photography they only have one image or style in mind, and that is a cutesy photo of a dog on a white background photographed from above with little attention to composition or feeling. It is flat, it is boring, it says nothing about the dog or the human it is attached to, it is a moment 'captured' by luck not by skill, and it is so overdone. Why rely on what is 'cute'? Why rely on auto-expose and auto-focus and post production auto-corrections— where does that get you, aside from completely removed from the intention of the image?
So why does dog photography get pigeon-holed into being so one-dimensional? It's something I've always wondered, ever since I started photographing dogs in San Francisco, and then Los Angeles, and then New York and Boston. I am an artist, and I feel a need to push the boundaries and express myself through my medium. I did this by developing a unique style of dog photography that no one else was doing- that is intimate, very personal, environmental, journalistic, concerned with story-telling and of course black and white. It is the antithesis of what people expect when they think of dog photography, and though I do see one or two other photographers who have built their own wonderful unique style in our niche— there remains little creativity within it. People are afraid to do something different. And that is probably why the general public thinks that dog photography is so one-dimensional.