Trusted friend to animals everywhere; a photographer of them for National Geographic and The Unleashed Studio
Size mattered greatly in the formative years of Louis, a Pug formerly known as Meatball, formerly known as doggie in the window of a New York City pet shop where he was seen daily until he wasn’t.
Meatball had grown too big for the window and was reassigned to, shall we say, a less than prominent position in the store when his owner-to-be came looking for him.
And while Meatball may have been too large for the window, the Pug now known as Louis was just small enough to be smuggled in and out past the doorman of a no-dogs-allowed building.
The things we do for love.
Size matters less these days to this 12 year-old, although his five front teeth are locked in a constant battle for space with his tongue. A world traveler, he has exquisite taste in food, music, women and cats.
Between his frequent naps, Louis is known to regale visitors with colorful stories about his time living in the city that never sleeps.
Thanks for your kind words of support and encouragement about this project, they mean the world to Callie and I. This week we photographed 2 humans, 4 dogs and a pile of reclaimed wood from the bottom of a river. With each of them we had a very enjoyable experience, even with the wood.
Bruiser, 2018 “This dog saved my life.” I hear this claim enough not to question it and know enough to believe it.
Such is the case with Bruiser, who answers to Bru, a little dog I was largely interested in until I found out he was a Chihuahua.
Don’t judge me. My professional opinion is scientifically based on an on-again, off-again relationship with “The Chihuahuas” a notorious gang of two dogs retired into a witness protection program in Florida. The two have always had it in for me, my ankles and my hearing. They work in tandem until they break you down. Good cop, Bad cop.
Bru is an engaging lad in a very strong relationship with one human and has spent the last years working as her personal life coach. He’s considered to be a greatest-of-all-time kind of dog and done more good in that regard than his 3-pound frame should allow for.
Maybe this will get me back in good standing with The Chihuahuas.
Sawyer and Ozzy, 2018
In the spirit of never say never, I present Sawyer and Ozzy, 8 and 2, both well-mannered Labradors of different colors who get along just fine and always have.
Enough time has passed since we made this photograph that I am reminded of what a jerk I can I be.
For the record, in the years 1980 - 1984, it was very wrong of me to make fun of my classmates who toiled in various studio lighting classes at our college.
I never took any of these courses, Sawyer and Ozzy, who certainly deserved better, certainly wished I had and you can see the disappointment on their faces.
As a young photographer, the studio was the one place on campus you would never find me.
The class assignment that drove my colleagues to tears was something about a dark object and a light object in the same picture. This was made exponentially more difficult back in the day because they used film, old-school lighting equipment and medium-format cameras.
Again, I want to take this time to apologize for my lack of empathy and short sightedness.
I will admit that I rarely agree to include more than one of anything in a photograph, yet my wife and faithful assistant Callie often reminds that in business the customer is always right and so here we are.
I wish I had some valuable piece of wisdom to share here, some Spartan of judgment but the truth is I’m just damn lucky, lucky that we made this photograph and lucky that my friends from college are still speaking to me, as well as Sawyer, Ozzy and Callie.
Have a great day and keep dry, I’ll be in the studio if you are looking for me.
Tough Guy, 2017
This dog is smiling because he’s a loser.
Those of you who with Cable TV might be familiar with The Simpsons and their adopted dog, Santa’s Little Helper, a former racer who got his big break on the show when he was abandoned at the track for finishing dead last.
Tough Guy, in his career as a racing Greyhound lost far more races than he won and to put it that way is far more polite than accurate.
He was terrible.
While he might dispute this claim, well-intended documents were casually researched, and as far as I can figure, he won just twice in a career cut short by his shortcomings.
His performance is embarrassingly detailed in these races as; Faded, Never Headed, Tired Badly, Under Pressure, Lost Ground, Out finished, Trouble Throughout.
Crafty and clever are two words you won’t see used in in these records, but what if Tough Guy was “throwing” these races all along ?
I raised that question to Tuff, as he is known informally and he responded diplomatically, with sincere apologies to all those who bet on him and lost.
In his new career as a family pet he enjoys a life of leisure where he is rarely competitive but never finishes last.
Have a great day and thanks again for following along with all of my #YearoftheDogs nonsense.
Brian is a rescued Labrador, whose provenance is never questioned and always respected. At 15 years old, he holds the position of elder statesman to an ever-expanding quorum of 8 other adopted pups.
By the time I was born, both of my grandfathers had passed away, depriving me of any of the disciplinary regimen that grumpy old men who were related to me might bestow.
Which is to say I got away with a lot.
Brian has seen his share of the kind of nonsense that a guy who didn’t grow up with a grandfather can present.
Which is to say I got away with nothing.
And so our brief time together was punctuated with the kind of give and take that arthritic hips and years of good behavior can produce.
They say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Thanks Grandpa.
The incredible legacy of photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon has influenced me throughout my career.
While they didn’t always work from the confines of a studio, when they did, they changed everything about the way we work from the confines of a studio.
They created some of the defining images of our time of the most notable people of theirs. Their portraits are intimate and majestic and indelible and revealing and I can stare at them for hours.
Maybe it’s the responsibility and control of nearly every element in your photograph, from the lighting to the background that inspires and terrifies me into attempting studio work.
Maybe it‘s the illusion that you are in control of something that you aren’t.
This was the case of the adopted Beabull known formally as Miss Ellie-Bou. Occasionally hyphenated but always on time, I have known Ellie for a number of years since her arrival in our neighborhood.
Some were worried about her in her youth – others never lost faith and she has matured into a friendly sort, seen often on the sidewalks of our fair town.
In the interest of full-disclosure, she is very much an A-type personality and for better or worse so am I. Some, close to me, have called me a control freak, yet I have never heard them say a bad word about Ellie.
My guess is that if you met Ellie on the street you might not recognize her from this photograph but you might know her better because of it.
This is often the objective and sometimes the case in what I’m trying to accomplish in a photograph of someone you see every day.
I could never make Ellie pose like this - it was a present, maybe a reward for good behavior from one A-type to another. These moments are gifted by the subject, to see them in a new light no matter where it’s coming from.
Daria was a flight risk. She’d already traveled across multiple state lines to get to us, yet we didn’t see it coming.
We work from within a patch of concrete in a very-active 43,000 square-foot open-plan warehouse, divided into territories like the strategy board game Risk. I currently have an alliance with a company that is renovating homes and they have amassed nearly a thousand 38-gallon water heaters on our sovereign border to the South.
To the North, a formidable artillery of salvaged street bricks and stacks and piles of recycled wood. We are at peace.
Daria’s entrance, planned for weeks in advance, was greeted with the fanfare reserved for Chow Chows of her stature, like that of a head of state or other visiting dignitary. All seemed to be going perfectly as she reviewed the studio and personnel on hand when she somehow discovered a very lost squirrel behind the water heaters.
Daria launched an immediate and thorough investigation for the fugitive squirrel that by now had successfully navigated a labyrinth of reclaimed flooring and hand-hewn beams to the open front door and was eight miles away.
In her mind, Daria never let go of that squirrel and from this point on, Callie and I were viewed as complicit in the escape and not to be fully trusted regardless of how many individually-wrapped slices of low-fat American cheese she might have folded up in her pocket.
No offense to smart dogs but they will exploit your insecurities, make you feel good about your photography and then bolt when you look at the back of the camera.
Leashes were used at times, photographs were made occasionally and the squirrel has not been seen since.
Tolliver, Monty, Django, Bear and Mary Anne, 2017-2018
This past week in the studio has been rough and made me wonder if I’ve lost a bit of my inner Dr. DoLittle.
As many of you know, not every dog thinks having his or her portrait made is such a great idea.
This is often where the owners and the dogs agree to disagree leaving Callie and me in the middle to sort it out.
Like diplomats, we negotiate with the dogs and talk to them about their hopes and dreams.
We appeal to the food motivated ones with a bounty of treats; we make promises of fame, of squeaky toys and of belly rubs.
This is when you find out who your true dog friends are and aren’t. It’s also when Callie will often say, she’s just not that into you, get over yourself.
Thanks for your patience, kind words and daily offers of volunteer dogs. It’s just Callie and I doing this, no corporate sponsors or funding, so despite our interest, it’s pretty unlikely we’ll be jumping on a plane to photograph any Miniature Schnauzers in Milan anytime soon. We are in Charleston, SC, where we create and fund our photography through owners who hire us to photograph their dogs. We hope to travel at some point in the near future, stay tuned as to where and when, I’m open to all suggestions.
I’m going to come right out and say it; I have a crush on Sophie in a girl-next-door kind of way.
When I was a boy, I had a crush on Sandee, an actual girl who lived next door, but I was a number of years her junior at the time and it was never going to work out.
If Sandee, who I haven’t seen or spoken to in many years is on @instagram, she may be learning of this for the first time, although I’m certain she had to know.
Now Sophie’s no Sandee, but she’s also funny, friendly and intelligent too. I only wish I lived next door to her.
While difficult to see in a photograph, her fleece is plush and as white as the snow that occasionally falls here in the south, which is to say it is more of an eggshell color and contains a higher thread-count than most dogs you meet.
She’s a sweet, 2 year-old, Teddy Bear English Goldendoodle, which is a breed name that sounds as made-up as this story, but both should be believed up to a point.
I recently spent a delightful afternoon with Sophie in the studio but haven’t heard from her since. It might be the age difference, but if you happen to see her at the local dog park, would you ask about me ?
Thank you again for following along with my #yearofthedogs. I’m truly humbled by your kind words and support of this work.
If unfurled with caution and stretched with a sense of purpose, Clyde’s tongue could easily span the length of a time zone. He doesn’t reveal the entirety of it for fear of autograph hounds and other publicity-seeking breeds.
Clyde will readily demonstrate that it is indeed retractable, but only so much, as it always stops a few inches short of its intended destination, like the power cord on an old hair dryer.
There’s a lot of Bull and dog in both of us, but for all of the creative differences we may have had during the shoot, Clyde’s patina is well earned and his personality greatly influenced by gravity and a weakness for bacon-flavored treats.
Big shout-out to Callie on this one as Clyde can sure drink a lot of water, he just doesn’t hold it as long as once did.
Harry is a 2 year-old Standard Poodle who is more Hairy than Standard but all Poodle.
I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous about photographing Harry.
Dogs can smell fear in a photographer but Harry never let on.
I wanted to call him “sir.” Respectfully, I thanked Harry for his patience as I fumbled around with the lights.
It took me forever to figure out what I wanted to do and his time is valuable.
Callie made small talk with him, apologizing for my incompetence.
In the studio, we usually ask the owner to leave when we photograph their dog.
She really has no idea that any of this went on with us, unless of course
she’s reading this post or Harry said something afterwards.
There is an awe usually reserved for royalty that I express for a dog that can
maintain a flawless Blue Steel, scratch himself and remain really, really, really, ridiculously good looking at the same time.
It’s off-putting at first but once you get to know these famous dogs, you realize they are regular dogs, just like the rest of us.
Don’t judge them only by their stunning good looks and impeccable manners.
If they wore pants, they would still put them on one leg at a time.
To those inquiring about his status, I can only say that Harry is currently in a relationship with a young Bernedoodle named Versace.
Our original studio was for a time, in a space directly connected to and behind a pet store.
They don’t actually sell pets, but they do sell enormous bags of dog food, a wide variety of dog treats and colorful dog toys that squeak, roll and bounce.
It is the dog equivalent of a candy store and Wilma is the proverbial kid in it.
She works part-time as concierge and house dog at Indigo Creek Pet Supplies.
It’s a responsibility she does not take lightly.
She is an 8 year-old rescued Great Dane with impeccable references and a winning work ethic.
Her duties include customer relations, food evaluation, marketing and human resources – although I think the latter is rarely required.
Wilma usually sees you before you see her, tracking a customers approach from an adjoining aisle before directly engaging. You might say she looms and you would be right to think that she does it largely.
We’ve had a busy week in the studio. I look forward to sharing the work with you as soon as I can come up with something clever to say.