For 15 years I was a fashion photographer in Belgium for retail and magazines, this was my first choice to be active in the pro world of photography. In Belgium, the possibilities are not abundant, due to the empty void and unpleasant atmosphere of this in combination with the financial and career possibilities I suffered from a burnout.
At that time, I did as sort of free work a shoot with a big white Borzoi, this dog posed in some pictures as a real elegant and beautiful model ! In the Belgium fashion world it is frustrating if you are a perfectionist like me, you do not work with the best models, with the best hairstylist, the best make-up artist, you cannot make pictures like the big names because you do not have the resources. In dog photography you do not need all that to have a perfect picture, whether the dog is old, or blind or has one leg missing, is too fat or too skinny, every dog is like a top model and does not need haute couture or a famous hairdresser, it is perfect by itself ! Because of my experience in fashion, I am glad I can also capture dogs’ owners in a beautiful way.
Year after year, more dogs and owners have found their way into my studio as we have a very different way of working during the shoot. We always start from the dog’s abilities and work step-by-step, take many breaks… I always try to search for the beauty in each of the dog models and of course here and there with a bit of fun.
There are no tricks, apart from the fact that we do use snacks and rewards for the dogs. We take enough time and patience for a shoot. After travelling to the studio and two hours of games and commando in the studio, the dogs are showing a certain fatigue, which gives them a whole other expression. Since 2014 I have worked with a permanent assistant, Inge Nelis, who takes over the lead from the owners and it works very well. It is very important as Inge, my assistant, is very calm and gentle with the animals but also resolute, she gets more out of the dogs than the owners do, that's because a lot of dogs we get in the studio are rescue dogs and they are not used to getting many commands, so they listen much more to a nice third person in combination with dog snacks or candies. The photo session is meant to be educational for the dog (especially for scared dogs) I mean we want the dogs to have a good afternoon while it gets more comfortable with new people, new situations and new environments. The combination of all those new things, the long trip to the studio and lots of commands the dogs get tired and more comfortable with us and therefore in the third of fourth hour of the shoot the magical moments start, it is the moment when the dogs can be themselves again.
For the moment, we travel a lot to other countries for dog shootings, in every country we have an organizer who invites us, makes the planning and does the communication with the models before the shooting. Everywhere we go, people are so nice, it is like a dream come true! I could not wish for more, well, yeah, maybe someday a lovely coffee table book with my favourite pictures :)
Paul & Inge