By: David Schonauer
Publish Date: Sept. 12, 2017, 10:47 a.m.
Time once again for our semi-regular series on pet photography.
This edition comes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: It wasn’t only millions of people affected by the storm and its catastrophic flooding in Texas, of course — the media also focus on the plight of pets and other animals, from bats to owls, and the attempts to save them. Today we feature some of the most memorable photos that turned up in the wake of Harvey, including a viral image of one dog carrying his own bag of food.
We also have our usual assortment of pet photography, from a series about overlooked black dogs at shelters to one about an aspiring “pup influencer” on Instagram. One artist has done a comparison of dog shows and beauty pageants, while another photographer has done a series about dogs in bed with their significant others. There’s also a series showing America’s first doggie art show. And we haven’t overlooked cats: The British Journal of Photography makes the case for them as significant photographic subjects.
As we’ve noted before, pet photography as a profession is on the rise, and that trend will probably not be changing anytime too soon: Adweek noted recently that 44 percent of Millennials see their pets as “starter children,” with 21 percent citing that as the main reason for welcoming an animal into their homes and another 23 percent saying it was at least part of the reason. And the Washington Post reported last year that three-fourths of Americans in their 30s own a dog and over half own a cat.
The devastation from Hurricane Harvey affected millions of people — and animals. “When people are plucked to safety, they often take with them the clothes on their backs and the few possessions they can carry. For many people, that includes taking their pets,” noted The New York Times. However, many pets “were left behind, abandoned in homes, chained to trees and left for strangers and animal shelters to round up and rescue.” BuzzFeed featured a roundup of photos and videos showing rescuers risking their own lives to save dogs and cats. (Photo above by Scott Olson / Getty Images.) Note: Go here to find out how to adopt an animal left homeless by Harvey.
“All creatures great and small are being saved from the devastating fallout of Hurricane Harvey,” noted HuffPost in its roundup of animal rescue images. Here we see that it wasn’t just dogs and cats that needed help: Humans also saved a colony of bats, a hawk (subsequently dubbed “Harvey the Hurricane Hawk”) that flew into a Houston cab drive’s vehicle to escape the storm, as well as livestock stranded by rising waters. The image above, by Joe Raedle via Getty Images, has been seen across the media. Raedle and other photographers recently talked with Wired about their experiences in flooded Houston.
When Harvey arrived, Otis, a German shepherd mix, took vital matters into his own hands — or, rather, jaws. Frightened by the storm, Otis escaped from a screened-in back porch in Stinton, Texas. “I stuck my head out yelling and yelling, and no Otis,” said the dog’s owner, Salvador Segovia, in an interview with the Washington Post. “The following morning, I got out and kept yelling, circled the block and everything, and nothing. We didn’t know where Otis was.” In the meantime, Otis was going viral on social media, thanks to a photo (above) taken by Tiele Dockens, who saw the dog walking down a street, carrying a big bag of dog food, which he took all the way back to his home.
The internet was filled with inspiring stories of people plunging into flood waters to save pets and filling their rescue boats with needy dogs after Harvey — but one seemingly ticked-off cat stole the show. Photographer Scott Olson captured the water-treading feline, and it didn’t take long for social media to make the cat an “online poster child for resilience, adapting to adversity with strength, resolve and sass,” noted People magazine.
Kendra dos Remedios’s most recent photographic series, “Best in Show,” takes “a delightful dive into the competitive worlds of preened dogs and manicured girls to explore their eerily paralleled premises,” noted AnOther recently. The idea for the project — which often pairs pictures from dog shows and beauty contests — was sparked when the photographer spotted a show dog strutting its stuff in much the same manner as a model. “I began linking the two worlds together and studying how sociologically similar they are,” she says.
Lisa Strömbeck, a photographer based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Borrby, Sweden, understands the bonding of animals and humans. Her project “Uniform” featured dogs, cats, and rabbits in the laps of people donned in fur of the same color and texture, with all species morphing into one mass. Her latest series, “In Bed,” captures dogs and humans together in the intimate space of the bed, notes Feature Shoot. In her project statement, Strömbeck details the “neuro-chemical processes that reinforce the bond between man and animal.”
The New York Times recently reported that the reason dogs are so friendly to humans may lie in two genes. At any rate, the connection between people and pooches runs deep. But is it art? An experimental exhibition that ran in New York from August 11 to 13 showcased works of art designed by humans specifically for canine viewers. The exhibition, titled “dOGUMENTA,” was filled with art pieces meant to intrigue and stimulate dogs' senses of taste, smell, and touch. Creators featured images from opening night (above image courtesy of Jason Falchook).
New York Times reporter Andy Newman was writing a Pet City column about famous Instagram dogs and their lucrative side careers as professional spokes-pets when he decided that his own dog, Barnaby, an “incontinent basset-beagle mix,” should become a pup-fluencer. Newman underscores a reality about Instagram: It’s not so much about art now as fame — the kind of fame even a hound aspires to. “These dogs bask in adoration. Fans line up to pet them. Their owners feed them snacks all day to keep them happy for the cameras,” he writes.
“Black dogs are commonly overlooked at animal shelters. They’re the last to be adopted and the most likely to be euthanized. Photographer Shaina Fishman has taken it upon herself to shine light on this problem and raise awareness, hope, and love for these dogs,” notes PetaPixel. Her pictures do so beautifully. “Black dogs are just as loving and just as playful but shelter staff can have a hard time photographing them,” says Fishman. “A good photograph is crucial to creating interest for a potential adopter.”
Cats have already taken over the internet, and now, notes the British Journal of Photography, they’re coming for our photobooks: The new volume Humble Cats — from the contemporary photography foundation Humble Arts — includes work by well-known photographers such as Stephen Shore, Asger Carlsen, Robin Schwartz and David Brandon Geeting, alongside images from little-known cat enthusiasts. (Above: a 2008 photo by Sarah Wilmer.) “For me, [the book is] more about showing the various ways cats can be an artistic muse,” says Jon Feinstein, the co-founder and curator of Humble Arts Foundation.
Florida’s Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) broke a 48-year-old adoption record last month, and, notes PetaPixel, the organization says photography played a huge role in that, backing up that statement with a series of before-and-after photos showing what a difference good photos can make. Last year, after seeing how much of an impact photography can make, OCAS decided to hire one of its former photography volunteers, Albert Harris, to directly support adoptions. “The results have truly paid off,” says OCAS.
At top: from Joe Raedle / Getty Images