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Holiday Gift Ideas for Pet Lovers

I thought I'd put together a short list of our studio's favorite holiday gift ideas for pet lovers, as the holidays are fast approaching. As someone who always leaves shopping for dog-friendly holiday gifts to the last minute- I'm sure some of you fellow procrastinators will find this helpful.  

Custom Dog Photography Gift Certificate - Click the photo below for more info on customizing an unforgettable fine art dog photography session for a friend. Each Gift Certificate includes a Photography Session, Presentation and very special collection of prints sure to impress the dog-lover in your life. Purchase your Dog Photography Gift Certificate before Dec 5th, and we'll ship it directly to you before the holidays.

Contact the studio to get the process started: studio@jessefreidin.com

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Pet Photography Photo Books We Love - You can preview and purchase these two wonderful and fun dog photography books below, each of which would make a great gift for dog-lovers of all ages.

 

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Coming Up For Air: Finding Shelter Catch Up

It's been a real whirlwind in the studio ever since I launched the Finding Shelter Kickstarter campaign, and I'm just finally able to come up for air and take a little rest from all this exciting (yet exhausting) work. This being my very first attempt at online crowdfunding, I was pretty nervous to be honest. I was unsure if people would understand my intent with this project, and see the depth, beauty, and storytelling within these images. I couldn't sleep the night before the Kickstarter launch, and grappled with a lot of self-doubt and anxiety (nothing abnormal for a professional artist- I doubt any of us sleep all that much). Fast forward to the morning of the launch, all went smoothly. A few hours later I get an email from Kickstarter leeting me know that my project had been selected as a coveted 'Staff Pick' and was on the front page. It stayed in the 'What's Popular' section of Kickstarter's website for at least two weeks. Then, the media started pouring in. Of course, I had done all my homework and had already reached out to a handful of important media sources (online and in print) that I thought would not only connect with the work, but also want to share it. One or two of those came through, which was great, but then I started getting interview requests and publications asking to share the work simply organically. And it was at that point- just a few days into the fundraising campaign- that I felt like what I had always thought was so special and intriguing and heartwarming/heartbreaking about Finding Shelter was being articulated in such a way that individuals all over the world were taking action and being inspired. As an artist- there is simply nothing better.

Below are some fun places Finding Shelter has been featured in the past three weeks- click on the images to visit the full story. Starting on Monday, we'll be in our final week of fundraising and it's the MOST IMPORTANT week! Though I've already reached my very modest goal, I still need to raise additional funds so that I can cover the enormous cost of cross country travel for me and my two assistants, food/gas/lodging, van rental, photo supplies/equipment, and more. I'm on the verge of signing with a publisher to publish this book and make it a HUGE success, which is nothing less than a dream come true. What I need now is your support to bring my Kickstarter funds up to $20,000 so that this trip can happen smoothly, safely and with the support I need.

Click here to visit the Finding Shelter Kickstarter page, and pre-order your book (or some prints, or cards, or tshirt, or a private photo class etc) today: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1299009732/finding-shelter-portraits-of-volunteers-and-shelte

 

 

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Finding Shelter Kickstarter Video Sneak Peek

The Finding Shelter fundraising campaign launches on Kickstarter on August 11th! So here's a little teaser of our beautifully done video to get you inspired to support the project and help my turn this moving series into a published book. Click HERE to visit our Kickstarter page, learn more about the project, and donate to the cause.  

Finding Shelter Sneak Peek from Jesse Freidin on Vimeo.

A 30 second sneek speak at the full length Finding Shelter Kickstarter video. Video by: Through The Lens Productions/Eva Moss.

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Exploring the Human-Animal Bond

In every project I work on- whether it is a private fine art dog photography commission for a wonderful client and their dogs, or funny book project about dogs named after food, or a moving story-telling collaborative about people living with disease and overcoming the odds through the support of their companions- my intention is always the same: to investigate the mysteries of the human-animal bond. No matter what the parameters of each project, I approach it all with the same deep curiosity about why we as humans are so intensely drawn to canines- and what that drive to bond with them says about us personally. jesse.freidin.photography los.angeles.dogphotography

It seems fairly simple - what is the human-animal bond all about? Animal sciences and contemporary psychology have simultaneously delved deeper into this topic over the past 5-10 years, providing us with a very exciting understanding of the workings of our connection with canines. I am personally fascinated with every aspect of the science behind our bond, but as a portrait artist and an observer what really interests me is how our relationships with our animals serve as a very powerful personality test. The ways in which we treat our animals in turn displays a clear understanding of our deepest selves. This, to me, is simply incredible.

Companion animals help people define themselves against a world that can feel overstimulating and cold, and serve as a physically and (more importantly) mentally stabilizing presence. Our pets have the potential to be simply pets- commodities that are treated more like possessions or toys than true family members- but for many people they are the exact opposite. This goes beyond pets simply being a support system for their humans and providing the power of unconditional love. What I am getting at in my visual research of the human-animal bond is how that singular experience of giving love to a companion animal provides humans with the amazing internal experience of receiving love- an experience that is quite hard to find in the real world in human/human interactions. People identify with their animal's goodness, or with their animal's survival story of making it through the shelter system, or their animal's outgoing personality or empathetic nature. Getting to relate to that allows humans to incorporate those feelings and experiences into their understanding of themselves- which results in this fascinating give and take within the human-animal bond that does not get discussed nearly enough.

This is what I am exploring through my dog portraiture, and what keeps me completely head-over-heels fascinated by my work. I am so intrigued by people, and observing realtionship is such a beautiful way to get to know someone.

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Featured in Vogue Korea Pets and Art Issue

It's an honor to be featured in the current issue of Vogue Korea magazine. This issue is dedicated to pets of all sorts, and has a big section called Pets and Art which showcases a small handful of some of the world's best contemporary dog artists- including a few of my favorites: Elliot Erwitt and Agnetha Sjogren. What a great feeling to have my fine art dog photography included in this pets and art section. Below are a few digital tear sheets from the magazine. The life of an artist is never smooth sailing. Things are always up and down, with the ups getting bigger and better every year, and the downs getting tougher and tougher. As I transition from being a California artist to my new North Adams, Massachusetts studio I am certainly feeling the challenge of uprooting the hardwork I've put into growing roots in San Francisco and Los Angeles as a nationally recognized dog photographer. I know it will take a while to get settled into my new home and studio, and foster my New York client connections. But amidst all of this slight turmoil I wake up to an email featuring my black and white dog photography alongside one of my heros- Elliott Erwitt. And you know what- everything snaps right into perspective and I realize that my dog photography is speaking to people not only in Los Angeles and San Francisco and New York and Boston- but all the way around the world in Korea. And that's a pretty excellent feeling.

Vogue Korea pet issue

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A Golden Retriever in their Happy Place

Everyone knows that Golden Retriever love nothing more than chasing after tennis balls. Probably more than any other dog on the planet, a Golden can play fetch endlessly. So when I asked my client where she and her Golden 'Libby' were happiest and most at ease, she didn't hesitate before saying "the park." Just like that. Very matter of fact. My client has been taking Libby to the same dog park for 13 years, sitting on the exact same bench by the exact same fence looking out at the exact same view of San Francisco for 13 years. And Libby, the Golden Retriever that she is, does not care about any of the other charming dogs that have crossed her path at the dog park over the past 13 years. All she cares about is the BALL. That's it. My client just throws that tennis ball over and over for her beloved Libby, watching dirt fly and golden fluff fly in all directions and a great big smile on Libby's face (see below). jessefreidin.sanfranciscodog.photography

Though I always want to meet my clients where they are their companions are most at ease, my dog photography sessions do not typically happen at the dog park for a handful of reasons. Firstly, dog parks are full of other dogs and people, making it a distracting environment for my client and their companion. When I'm photographing, I want to be able to control what's around me to ensure I have the attention and focus of my subjects. Secondly, it's sunny at the park! I'm no vampire, but I don't enjoy direct sunlight when photographing dogs. It's just not part of my style- I want smooth, open shade not harsh direct light. And thirdly, people tend to feel a little awkward at first during their photography sessions, which is completely normal. But to ease that anxiety, it's best to be somewhere private. This helps my clients feel more relaxed, which in turn makes their dogs feel more relaxes, which in turn makes me feel more relaxed and the work just flows better that way. You know?

That being said, I was more than happy to accomodate this dog park request, as the history behind it was so beautiful. I sat with my client in her usual spot, and photographed their usual routine- throwing the ball over and over and over until my camera and I were covered in dirt and Golden Retriever fluff. A productive day at the office, I'd say.

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Thanks for a great session, guys!

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A Cockapoo Grows Old in Palo Alto

Little Emily the Cockapoo lives in Palo Alto with a devoted family who has watched her grow up alongside her (human) teenage sibling. Now at age 13, she is dealing with some serious health issues and though her spirit is high, her time is short. Though one sibling is a little bigger than the other at this point, their relationship is so strong. When we had this San Francisco dog photography session, Emily's (human) sibling had just returned from college for the Summer, and as he knew Emily's health was failing the bond they shared was so present and beautiful. Everone gathered around the beloved family dog, doting on her in the most approporiate way, forgiving her questionable yet familiar behaviors (barking at passer-bys, wandering into the neighbor's yard, biting the hand that feeds her, etc), and making this Palo Alto dog photography session truly special. san.francisco.dog.photographer.jessefreidin san.francisco.pet.photography.jessefreidin

So often I hear people say "I have a black dog. They're just impossible to photograph." Now, if you're using an iPhone or a point and shoot camera, or any kind of camera that uses the dreaded AUTO function- yes. You're right. It will be nearly impossible to create a properly exposed image of a black dog that way. The reason is that black dogs create an enormous amount of contrast within an image, and a camera that is on AUTO EXPOSE is going to really struggle with that much contrast. The problem is, with AUTO EXPOSE your camera is going to want to expose for the lightest thing in the frame, making the general exposure of the image way too dark, resulting in a black dog that looks like a big black blog with no detail. Now, when I photograph a black dog I have my camera on MANUAL (as always), and take a meter reading off of the actual dog- the actual black area of the dog's body. I do this because I want to make sure I am letting enough light into my lens as possible, which will result in a black dog where you can see all the wonderful texture of it's beautiful coat, where the eyes pop and expression is present, and the background just falls off and helps set the scene.

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What a great dog, what a great family. Thanks for such an inspiring session, guys!

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The Rise of the Shelter Pet

I read an article in the Huffington Post recently about how shelter pets are 'the coolest breed.' And of course, I agree, though I try not to be breedist (Boston Terriers are the best, but don't quote me on that). In this article the Huffington Post declared it's deep concern for our shelter system, and dedication to supporting animal welfare. Wonderful news, HuffPo. But what I really love about this article is knowing that such huge digital media outlets not only are getting on the 'shelters are cool' band wagon, but that it seems as though they really are amplifying a deep understanding of the real issue. Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 7.32.01 PM

The message of this article is that creative efforts - such as taking professional and fun photographs of adoptable animals, hosting mobile adoption events in public areas, and making shelters cleaner, brighter, and more inviting - are all paying off. Just like Finding Shelter, so many volunteers and advocates across the country are working toward re-branding the out dated images of our nation's animal shelters. And it's very exciting to be part of this important discussion that will result in saving the lives of healthy and adoptable animals.

It's going to take a while to fully drag the 'unwanted, sad animal' stigma away from shelter pets, but it is certainly not impossible. And, the hard work is already being done and making an impact. Lisa LaFontaine, CEO of the Washington Humane Society, is so confident in this effort to re-brand shelter pets that she wonders where people will get their pets in the future. To be honest, this is something I've considered as well. As we encourage spay/neutering and even require it at some very smart shelters, how will we regulate which pet animals can be allowed to procreate? This is going to be a very tricky issue to sort out, and I hope that large national groups like the ASPCA and Humane Society etc use their power for good, not evil, when handling this topic.

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Beachy Malibu Dog Photography At It's Best

I had such a wonderful Malibu dog photography session in Los Angeles recently with Sugar and Dre- two matching skinny brindled sweet pups. I met these beautiful Malibu dogs at a secluded public beach on a slightly overcast, breezy late afternoon. The light was perfect- very bright, but a little hazy, and the beach was big and open with magical rock croppings and caves scattered through out the shore. The texture (and pure joy in Sugar and Dre's faces while racing back and forth and jumping in and out of the water) of the beach and soft breeze gave this Los Angeles dog photography session a very classic Hollywood look. You just can't go wrong with dogs running around on a Malibu beach. jesse.freidin.dogphotographer

Whenever I get a cooperative breeze during a photography session, I like to make the hilarious joke that I ordered the 'natural wind machine' for the shoot. I'm not sure any of my clients have ever laughed at that nerdy photo joke, but I still think it's funny. The wind kept making great shapes with the crisp white dress my client was wearing, and gave an added layer of texture to her hair which I loved. With a stylist on hand for this shoot (sometimes clients bring stylists along in Los Angeles), these portraits have a really nice balance of beautifully planned make up and lighting, and natural chaos. That's a balance that is always so exciting for me.

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What a ridiculous pair these two LA dogs were. Happy people, happy dogs, and a great beachy Malibu dog photography session!

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Follow Finding Shelter on Instagram!

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Finding Shelter is on Instagram (@finding_shelter), so you should follow us! Photos from the series are posted every day, along with volunteer's stories about why they volunteer. Trust me, I get teary-eyed reading most of them. And creating the work. And meeting the dogs. But this project is incredibly inspiring to me, and gives voice to the unsung heroes of the animal shelter world: the volunteer workers. So come follow us on Instagram and tag and like and repost and all that other stuff! Thanks!

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