Judging by online videos, the most photographed animal may be cats, but dogs can’t be far behind.
Even if you agree that dogs are our best friends, as a photographer you’re asking yourself if the world really needs another book of dog photos.
Vincent J. Musi has the answer, and it’s yes.
Musi, who is married to Callie Shell (see Shell's book review), has as his specialty animal photography, which you’ve seen in his National Geographic cover stories. He traveled the world for his work until he realized his teenage son soon would be old enough to leave home. He decided to apply his talents to a project he could work on without having to get on a plane with a passport.
So he set up a studio at a pet store in South Carolina and ended up with “The Year of the Dogs,” a book of serious portraits of playful puppies, high-strung lap dogs and purebreds groomed as if headed to a competition.
The photographs Musi makes go well beyond pretty pictures of happy dogs, and that’s where we find his secret sauce. He has the skill and the patience to coax out an animal’s personality. And, yes, that may be a contradiction in terms, but honestly, when you look at Musi’s images, you’ll be convinced these dogs have a lot more to say than most people hear.
There’s Mary Ann, a boxer-Staffordshire bull terrier mix, who sits politely, waiting for you to continue telling her about your day.
Or consider Bruiser the Chihuahua. He poses with nobility, if one can say that about a little dog with such big eyes. You can tell he’s ready for his bust to be sculpted in marble, preserved for the ages.
When Anubis, a Great Dane “who might easily outweigh your average high-school senior,” turns her head for her portrait, she brings to mind the demure style in women’s portraits from the 1930s.
One photograph that makes me smile each time I look at it comes from Musi’s series on King, a 4-year-old Labrador who has a happy face that’s ready to please. My favorite photo happens to capture him only from the back — because he launched himself skyward, leaping with gusto, legs akimbo.