It’s a Dog’s Life
This article was originally published in April 2016.
A little over two years ago, I was done with photography. A three-year phase of self-taught photography had come to an end and I had few photographs to show, that hadn’t been already done or couldn’t be taken again by another. That’s the nature of photography today, technology has completely leveled the playing field and barriers to entry are low or non-existent. So it’s difficult if not impossible not to be another “me-too” photographer. Putting your head down and working hard is a requirement but it’s not enough. Awareness through research about what is out there is vital as is being honest with yourself. In the end you have to be an author trying to write a great book, the camera and the photographs will always be secondary—like the pen and words—to help and enable you to tell a great story.
So, I hung up the camera and for no particular reason, started scanning my family’s old photographs. It was great to escape from the real world and look at these vernacular snapshots in isolation. I got a condensed pictographic history of my family from the 1950s to the 90s that in turn helped solidify my own identity and secondly and fortuitously I had an idea for a new project. One that I was uniquely in a great position to photograph. My parents loved dogs, so much so, that they started attending dog shows in the late 1970s and competing their pets against those of others. I would often go with them when I was a child, and had all these memories of driving to running around at dog shows whilst they showed their dogs.
In retrospect, it seems quite obvious really but, after trying so hard to be something or someone I wasn’t, it was easy to not see or appreciate memories and possibilities so close to me. In 2013, I decided to find out what was going on in the world of Indian dog shows for the first time in 20 years. At my first dog show in Bareilly in November 2013 it felt as if I had chanced upon a photographic gold mine in my own backyard. And those three years painstaking years of self-taught photography racked with failures? They played a significant role in helping me in choosing the right treatment for this project. I was also fortunate to have found a great partner—who also loves dogs—and who supported me financially.
We got married last year and sacrificed our honeymoon to continue funding this project. As with most personal projects, I am yet to make a single rupee from my series. I still have at least a year to go before there will be enough photographs to complete it. But money wasn’t the reason I started this project. It began with the hope that I will have something, however significant or not, that will be unique and powerful… something that simultaneously celebrates my love for photography, dogs and humor.Tags: Visual Musings, September 2015, Karan Vaid