A Portrait of the Artist as an Old Dog
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a dog photographer who didn’t specialise in photographing dogs - he was a dog.
Cyrus the Australian Shepherd belonged to photographer Athena Lonsdale and his career, like many of the great ones, began utterly by chance. As reported in the Missoulian:
Lonsdale was a student at RMSP several years ago when a classmate came to her with a request. He was going into pet photography, and wanted his business cards to include a picture of a dog taking a picture of him. Could Lonsdale and Cyrus help him out?
Lonsdale taped a cheap Instamatic to a short tripod, stocked up on treats and taught Cyrus to swing his paw at the top of the camera. It wasn’t too difficult – the motion is essentially the same as you’d see if you taught a dog to “shake a paw.”
It’s just that Cyrus was taught it to the command, “Take a picture.”
At first Cyrus’ picture-taking was just a cute trick accomplished with an old, empty camera. An amusing diversion for Lonsdale and, I’m sure, for Cyrus. Fortunately a friend of Lonsdale’s saw the potential for photographic genius in Cyrus and suggested that she put film in the camera to see what Cyrus would come up with. The rest, as the say, is history.
What developed was a photography career.
Cyrus’ prints have fetched, pardon the pun, up to $350, and he was even commissioned by people to take their portraits.
Like too many gifted artists, Cyrus didn’t achieve widespread recognition until after his death. He passed away in September at the age of 13 and his first exhibit; “A Dog and his Girl” opens tomorrow (Friday, December 4, 2009) at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography Gallery.
Wow. If dog art fetches $350 a photo – I may have to buy the OddMan his own camera. Given Audie’s agreeable nature and willingness to use his mouth and paws to manipulate things for me, I don’t think it would take long to teach him to take photographs.
Rather than a derivative approach modeled on Cyrus’ pre-selected, pre-posed compositions, I believe that Audie would prefer to adopt a more free-form approach. Perhaps selecting subjects based on their aromatic characteristics.
I wonder if I can get a motion-activated still camera that is set to take photographs when it detects a lack of motion instead of the standard camera that is triggered by the presence of motion? The ‘no-mo’ camera would only take photos of the things that Audie stopped to examine in detail (or that he napped next to).
If I put the no-mo camera on him before a long, off-leash walk, it could provide some fascinating insights. Along with the usual poop and dead things, I bet there’d be some fascinating views of game trails, dens, tracks and a host of other wonderful things that my atrophied human senses and chronically distracted mind miss when he and I walk together.
If anyone knows where to get something like this - please drop us a comment. If it works and it’s affordable, I’ll send you a free pawtographed print by the artiste.
If you ‘d like to see Cyrus’ work or buy a print, visit Wet Stinky Dog Studios. There is some surprisingly good stuff there.
NOTE: Gallery date updated 12/04/09 as per Maddy’s correction.