|Article Author: Angie McKaig|
Mark J. Asher's photographs remind us that old dogs are still beautiful by Angie McKaig
Puppy photographs are easy. Everyone loves to coo over them, much like the puppies themselves. We can't help it. The smaller, the more awkward and cute, the more we love 'em. But it's harder to find love and beauty in the older dog - and that's where Mark J. Asher's new book, Old Friends, comes in.
Old Friends is a stunning new photography book filled with duotone portraits of slightly more weathered pooches (most are over age 10). They may be older, but they have a great deal of style and fun - not to mention wisdom to impart. Coupled with each photo is each pooch's longevity secrets. And from yoga and other regular exercise to companionship and belly rubs, there's a lot they can still teach us.
The photographs are nothing short of stunning. Mark has managed to capture not only the dogs' age and grace, but also their fun sides. It's a charming book that would make a welcome addition to any dog lover's coffee table.
We recently spoke Mark about the book and photographing animals.
pp: What made you decide to devote so much of your artistic time to photographing animals??
mja: My entree into the dog world and photographic inspiration came through Humphrey, my German Shepherd/chow mix. He had become a huge part of my life, having seen me through the death of a business partner, a divorce, and a career change. In the spring of 2001 I found myself out of work and I had time to explore my creative side. I picked up my camera, having previously only shot landscapes, and began to photograph Humphrey. Little did I know I was embarking on a new, deeply rewarding career path.
pp: What is your artistic background?
mja: Throughout my life I have had quite a few different creative quests, from being a copywriter for a small advertising agency to launching a humorous greeting card line to pursuing a career as a songwriter.
pp: How many years have you been photographing dogs?
mja: I photographed Humphrey in my backyard when he was a pup, but professionally I've been at it for just over two years.
pp: Have you ever done any shows? Are there other places where people can see your work?
mja: I researched the "gallery world" but I haven't pursuing it as of yet. My work is best represented by my first book, "Old Friends: Great Dogs on the Good Life" and through my website.
pp: Do you have favourite breeds to photograph?
mja: I don't have a favorite breed. I'm most interested in a dog with a great personality that brings out my creativity as a photographer.
pp: What's the most rewarding part of photographing dogs?
mja: Easily the interaction with the dogs: the smartest, most entertaining, loving creatures on earth. I also love the satisfaction of knowing that I've given the dog owner a timeless memory of their special, four-legged friend.
pp: Why did you choose to do a book on dogs (Old Friends)?
mja: My dog, Humphrey had just turned eight-years old, which is considered senior for a large breed dog. On our daily walks, we kept coming across these incredible senior pups. When the idea seeped into my consciousness, I couldn't believe - after much research - that there were no illustrated books on older dogs.
pp: How long did it take you to photograph and compile Old Friends?
mja: It took several months to put together a proof-of-concept, which contained images of nine dogs with their longevity secrets. When I got the offer from a publisher, they wanted to release the book the following fall. In order to do so, I needed to deliver the remaining images and longevity secrets to them in a two-month timeframe.
pp: Can people purchase prints of any of your photographs?
mja: Not at this time, but I'm working on it! Stay tuned to my website.
pp: Why do you think coffee table books on dogs - particularly photographic ones - have become increasingly popular?
mja: It seems that "everything dog" has become popular over the last several years. I suppose coffee table books are a natural extension of that.
pp: What plans do you have for the future? More dog books? Other products?
mja: A collection of notecards from "Old Friends" will be out in Fall, 2004. I'm also working on a new book, which will also be out next fall.
pp: Tell us a little about your dog(s).
mja: Angie, this is a tough one. Humphrey died of stomach bloat just after finishing the book. It completely tore me apart and is still difficult for me.
I'd like to take a moment to pass my condolences on to Mark on the death of Humphrey. This was a tough part of the interview for me, given how attached I am to little Merry. I cannot imagine what Mark is going through, but I am glad that he has so many permanent memories of Humphrey in his photograph collection. I'm sure all of our readers will join me in wishing Mark the best during this difficult time.
For more information on Old Friends or Mark's photography,
visit www.markjasher.com or buy the book now from Amazon.com.