A few years ago I completed a four-city tour documenting dogs and graffiti. This project started out harmless enough but then snowballed into a full on project. Featured here is an image from the New York portion of the project. All four of these books are available online, however, I’m actually in the process of editing all four books into ONE magazine piece which I will release in the coming weeks. This entire project was made with the Leica and Tmax 3200. Since the four city project I’ve also added pieces from Panama and Peru, which I will probably feature at a later date. Enjoy.
As many of you know, I’m a book guy. I love books. I dream about them. I’ve made several. Well, add two more to the list. And folks, I made these books rather quickly. These small publications were not labored over, toiled over. I did not pull my hair out. I did not consult higher powers. I just did them. Bingo. Bango. You book designers are probably saying, “No joke.” I made the images over a year ago, but I just got around to making the books, and BOOK is a stretch in both cases. I consider these “books” simply sketches of an idea that I’ve been carrying around and acting out on for at least five years. The beauty of this book process, the print on demand process, is simply that you can make a single book. I LOVE to play with books. I’ve made an assortment of hideous creations not fit for public consumption, and I’ve made others that I’m proud of that continue to sell. My advice…just play.
A few years ago I started a project about dogs and graffiti in different cities/countries around the world. Palermo, Paris, New York, Tijuana and now Panama and Peru have entered in the mix. Is this story a world beater? No, not really. Have I sold a fair amount of these books? Yes. Dogs are a safe bet, but oddly enough the range of response to THIS particular project has been as varied as anything I’ve ever done. I’ve had people look at these images and claim to see great religious or political slant. No joke. I just nod and say, “You got me.” But back to the books. I love making these books for several reasons. First, it allows me to revisit the work. Second, it forces me to edit the work, and three, it allows me to create a physical artifact from the project. I don’t sweat these books. I enjoy the process and I toss the final product in a pile and revisit them from time to time. That’s all. I think sometimes we make too much of all this stuff. Photography, books, BEING photographers or book people. Just enjoy the process. You wanna be a world-beater? Good, go for it. Wanna just play, then play.
And for all you tech crazies out there. I know you want it. Wait for it…wait….wait for it……all Leica, all TRI-X. As the gear wars rage on I always find myself keeping an ear to the ground, thinking, “Well, I should go and look at these new cameras.” And then I do and I end up driving home empty handed. My old fallback of Leica, TRI-X is hard to beat. And now that my darkroom is nearing completion I really don’t see a need to change anything now. Of course tomorrow I’ll be saying something new, but I reserve the right to do so.
Dogs might be the best thing we have going. Sorry to all you cat people, cats are okay, but dogs….I think better. Have you ever seen a cat dive in the pool after a chew toy? Okay, okay, I’m sure there is ONE cat out there, confused of its position in life, that might swim, but not like this.
What I like most about dogs is that once you get past the initial barking to set the boundaries moment, and you make contact with them, they sense your intention and if accepted…you are IN. INSTANTLY. You scratch them, throw that chew toy ONCE and you are like blood brothers, sharing a DNA of fun, jumping, barking and eating things you aren’t supposed to. Dogs allow a bond that goes beyond human vs. animal. Dogs are a lifelong frat buddy.
So this shoot began with another concept, a good one, but as I moved around the house I noticed something. I noticed that anytime I got near the door to pool the dogs took on a new level of awareness. It was as if they were saying, “Oh man, the new guy is near the door….OPEN it, OPEN it new guy.” “He doesn’t know how much we love that pool.” “DO IT.” “DO IT new guy!” I would move near the door, they would tense, tails freezing, faces tight with suspension while they desperately tried to act normal.
And then..the door was opened. A slobbery chew toy was dropped. An arm was raised. The Earth froze on it’s axis. The clouds parted and with a soft “plunk” the chew today landed in the water. Seconds later..nails on concrete, a “whhhiiiicccccckkk” as liftoff was achieve.
” Air traffic control to yellow lab you are cleared for landing on runway 2-2-0.” Boom. Water blown from dog nostrils, shakes, water flying, whimpers if the chew toy was not returned to the pool seconds after it was dropped. It was ON. I moved around making a few pictures, but enjoying the pure joy of the dogs more than anything else. They looked like little Southern California polar bears as they swam around, perhaps more at home in the water than they are on land. The bond was made.
A few days later I saw them again, heads poking from vehicle window and was able to give them a good scratching. No words were exchanged, just a secret handshake and wink acknowledging that we were friends and if I ever returned I would know the drill. Say hello, open the pool door and start throwing. I imagined them at night, asleep, paws twitching, muzzles moving as they dreamed about being airborne, in those precious seconds of flight before their world became water.
Jealousy is a horrible thing. It really is. Sometimes I get jealous. I look around and I see people living above my means and I think, “I wish I was them.”
I’m not sure I really do, but sometimes it feels like I do. I’ve never been a material possession kinda guy. I like people. I like experience. Not to sound like a total wuss, but Iike things like kindness, sincerity, simplicity and happiness.
This dog is rotten. This dog is jealous.
Humans think they are on top of the food chain. It’s natural. Unless you are swimming with white sharks or bow hunting cape buffalo, typically, we are on top of the animal food chain. But this animal things otherwise. This animal thinks she is a human.
Take talking on the phone for example. For you and me, a normal exercise. But for this beast, a challenge to her position on Earth. Oh ya, talking on the phone was what prompted this little outburst.
The talking began and suddenly I was approached from an odd angle, bobbing and weaving. I faltered for only a SECOND and she smelled weakness. I took the phone from my ear and literally said outloud, “What?”
This only made things worse.
She was incensed I would NOT pay 100% attention to her. After all, in her mind, NOTHING matters outside of…well…her. She lunged, she ducked, she dove, all the while growling and then barking. There was nothing I could do.
So for a brief moment I left my position on the food chain and visiting a region I was not comfortable with. I put the phone down, grabbed my camera, looked her in the eye and asked, “What?”
I’ve always found it funny when people talk about being reincarnated. I’m not sure I want to do this whole life thing again, but when I think about being reincarnated, I don’t think about coming back as someone famous, or some great world leader.
In fact, I don’t want any part of that. Too much work. Jesus, you think I want photographers following me around, famous person, or having the responsibility of saving the world? No frickin way.
It is very clear there is only ONE destination for me, if in fact I do, at some point, get reincarnated.
I’m coming back as my mom’s dog.
This mutt has totally got it made.
I swear to God this dog sleeps at least 18 hours a day. At least. And if you try to move her during that period she will growl at you.
She is a hunting dog, which by tradition means she would spend her life hunting. But our hunting trips are few and far between these days, so her hunting prowess has to be channeled on animals not used to being hunted. Frogs, turtles, cats, large birds, other dogs or the occasional lizard, snake or beetle, are all possible targets.
And speaking of eating, she gets all kinds of great food. Dog food, sure, but she also gets tons of stuff that mom gives her. Gravy on her food, organic produce, organic, free-range meat. Far better food than I get to eat.
Oh, and this dog controls the house. When mom is on the phone, the dog sits next to her and barks until she hangs up. The dog is insanely jealous and needs to be the center of attention. It’s pathetic. She will walk up in front of you, look at you, start to lose it and then start banging on you with her paw until you do something, anything, let her out, let her in, pet her, stop petting her, get her something, feed her, pay more attention to her, pay less attention to her, etc. It never ends.
Did I mention she sleeps on a red, leather chair? Did I? Ya, it’s true. A chair bought SPECIFICALLY for her. I don’t have a red leather chair.
Due to some short circuiting of her internal, hunting wires, she will now go on point inside the house. She used to wait until she hit the porch before locking on a point, frozen, with only the tip of her nose searching for the target. But now, as she oozes her pudgy body off the leather chair, she locks on a feeble point, just for the sake of pointing. Her quality bar has fallen and can’t get up. This is my goal in life.
So for those of you looking for me in another life, I’ll be the fat little pooch controlling your house.