Photographer Barbara Karant captures the speed and beauty of the greyhound in her newest book by Nicole Feliciano
Estimates suggest 25,000 greyhounds pups come into the world each year to support the sport of dog racing. Odds are most of these pups will never see a track and end up in need of a loving home. Greyhounds by Barbara Karant is a new hardcover photography book with a mission.
Karant's color photos capture the fragility and surprising playfulness of the breed. Close-cropped pictures of dancer like joints, paper-thin ears and sinewy limbs abound. Each page confronts the reader with slopes, curves and movement.
Pure and uncluttered, this work is all about the dogs. Karant shoots against a white backdrop devoid of props. The close-ups of the faces are glorious and the canine personalities shine through. More than a mere homage to a breed, Karant has a larger goal in mind with Greyhounds. She hopes to promote public awareness for these racers and the particular challenges they face.
Trained at RISD and the Art Institute of Chicago, Karant works day to day as a commercial photographer. The celebrated artist's photos hang in the walls of esteemed museums, such as the St. Louis Museum of Art and The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts and can be found on the pages of glossy national magazines like House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home and many more.
When asked to describe her work, the photographer gushed, "I love interiors and architecture especially, as they are inanimate." But living breathing things are not her cup of tea. She says, "It is only under duress that I shoot people."
Somewhere along the way of her more than twenty-year career, Karant opened her heart to a new subject. She started following the greyhound adoption movement and fell in love with the breed. Karant speaks of "the fluid lines, the quiet grace, the regal bearing" and calls the dogs' features the inspiring. Finally an animate subject she responded to!
The artist's exploration of greyhound images began in 1999. This was right around the time her second greyhound made his way into the family. Since then her canine family has expanded -- Slim (13), Turtledove (11) and Fancy (6) -- as have her ties to the adoption movement.
Initially her efforts consisted of using her photography to give the group Greyhounds Only a brand image to assist in fundraising efforts (for more than a decade, Karant has devoted herself to the adoption movement and this non-profit group as President and fundraiser). Photo shoots led to a line of products (note cards, t-shirts, mouse pads, etc) designed to raise awareness and offer a continuous revenue stream.
Greyhounds is yet another attempt to assist the greyhound rescue movement by sharing images of retired racing dogs with the world. "This book represents nine years of photos," says Karant. Karant coordinated numerous photo shoots clicking away at hundreds of greyhounds. It all happened in her 3000 square foot professional studio.
Greyhounds offer the challenge of being in motion. It seems odd that a professional who relishes the control and specificity of architectural work would relish the guaranteed chaos of a canine photo shoot. But the consummate professional seems to relish letting her studio - pardon the expression - go to the dogs.
"The shoots are a lot of fun and a little crazy... there are up to 30-plus greyhounds in the studio at one time," says Karant. Most of the subjects are adoptees from Greyhounds Only (this is only one of more than four hundred greyhound adoption groups). Karant describes the dogs as easygoing, spirited and loyal.
She takes each shoot in stride and relishes the experience. Karant keeps some constants in both her philanthropic effort and commercial work. She says the communality in the work is the attention to detail and the light. And she says, "The work is very calculated; not random. I look for very specific things. The photos were choreographed." That's the mark of a true genius - she makes the planned look spontaneous and free.
Collaboration was key to this project. In addition to rallying hundreds of models, Karant wanted some human a-list talent involved in the book. Before the book was published Karant started a letter writing campaign. She reached out to a number of musicians and writers in hopes that they would somehow contribute to her book. No one should be surprised that this committed dog lover met with success.
In addition to the ravishing pictures, Karant got her new friends to contribute prose to the work. Karant connected with award-winning author Alive Sebold (The Lovely Bones). Sebold contributed a profound essay on dogs and the love and responsibility they deserve and inspire. An avowed dog lover, Sebold says, "To live among greyhounds is to live with beauty." Sebold shares her childhood dream of owning five acres of land and five greyhounds. When talking of Karant's work she praises the photographer's ability to "catch the angles and curves of the breed." In addition to Sebold, Karant enlisted the talents of Alan Lightman, Yvonne Ziper, Neko Case and Gary Chassman as contributors.
Bibliophiles will appreciate something else in the work. Karant has scoured the literary canon to find greyhounds quotes that she intersperses in the book:
"...a greyhound out-runs the whole pack in a race, yet would rather be hang'd than he'd leave a warm place"
- Jonathan Swift
Despite her dedication and energy, Karant knows this book alone won't solve the problem of overpopulation of the breed. Karant estimates that about 14,000 greyhounds are adopted each year as pets, leaving thousands of dogs homeless and subject to euthanization. Her hope is that proceeds from Greyhounds will be a part of the solution.
More about the book: greyhoundsthebook.com
The rescue organization: greyhoundsonly.com
To find a greyhound adoption agencies in your area: www.adopt-a-greyhound.org