The Dogist author and photographer on his endearing canine subjects
Elias Weiss Friedman has photographed thousands of dogs for his blog and book, The Dogist. What sets his pictures apart is how human he makes the canines seem.
Friedman achieves the look by getting down on their level before shooting, making eye contact and creating a connection. “When I’m shooting photographs of dogs, I’m trying to get them looking right into the lens. It makes the image feel dramatic. That’s what makes a great image, taking something ordinary and making it feel dramatic,” said Friedman, who gets down on the dogs’ level despite being 6 feet 3 inches tall.
The 27-year-old’s canine adventures started with a blog a few years ago. Along the way, he has posted more than 3,300 images and gathered 1.5 million followers on Instagram, 50,000 followers on Tumblr, 70,000 on Facebook and 20,000 on Twitter.
The book version, titled The Dogist: Photographic Encounters with 1000 Dogs, is already on The New York Times’s best-seller list. It features 1,001 dogs from cities around the world. We talked to Friedman about his work and the enthusiastic response it has received.
What does a “dogist” mean to you?
I consider a “dogist” to be “one who dogs”. The name was inspired by the fashion blog The Sartorialist. It’s not a real word, but it conveys the simplicity and silliness that lives throughout the project.
What is your favourite medium?
I like to explore the different mediums. I can do a five-picture series in a book with different aspect ratios and include outtakes that didn’t make sense for a blog.
The online social-media experience is sort of fleeting and has a short attention span, so you view the image and then you go back to what you were doing and you see another one later. It’s like a feed, whereas the book is something you can hold and revisit and explore.
The blog is how people follow me and it gets updated every single day. There is something in a coffee-table book, something you can hold and share. I think of it as a yearbook, the culmination of two years of work, the best of the blog, plus outtakes, plus my own stories, plus images people haven’t seen, a chapter in the project.
What are the elements that make an unforgettable, photogenic dog?
As a dog photographer looking for interesting variable elements, rare breeds, flat, wrinkled faces, young puppies and a big underbite is like gold for me.
Why are there so few people in your photos?
It’s too hard to get people to forget they are being photographed. It’s nice to include someone’s smile, hand or face blurred out, but if they are in the image, it can be very distracting. This is the dog’s moment.
What kind of camera do you use and what are the best conditions for shooting?
I use a Nikon D750 and use natural light. I typically prefer the closer 24 or 25mm lenses, so the working distance between me and the dog is close. I can reach out with my hand and brush a treat by his nose to re-engage him. I also like to shoot with a longer lens. You get a different portrait aesthetic.
What is next for you?
There are dogs doing incredible things around the world like rescuing, herding and hunting. There would be a National Geographic attitude about it. Dogs in their element. That’s what I am excited about. Driving around the country finding dogs doing things in their natural settings and showing people things they never saw – that interests me as a dog fan and a photographer. There won’t be any people. Dogs are always more interesting than people.