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When it means the world

Cover of The Year of the Dogs
A review of The Year of the Dogs by Vincent J. Musi

Vincent Musi was a freelance photographer for National Geographic for more than 25 years when he decided to try something different. His son was sixteen years old and growing up quickly and Musi did not want to accept assignments that would take him overseas for long stretches of time during his son's final years of high school. Travel was a basic requirement for National Geographic photographers and Musi wanted to stay close to home. So he built a studio and named it The Unleashed Studio and started capturing the essence of one of my favorite creatures: the dog. This was met with enthusiasm and skepticism from friends and colleagues because humans are weird.

One of the insights shared by the photographer in this book is that you can’t expect an animal of any kind to do what you want just because you want them to. This is coming from a person who has photographed lions and tigers so I take his word for it. The Year of the Dogs captures portraits of more than 100 dogs from the year Musi opened his studio. It is an extraordinary collection of photographs and brief narratives about the dogs, factual and embellished.  Simply put this book is gorgeous. Perfectly flawless. The photographs are stunning, the accompanying text funny and thoughtful. The subjects are familiar, yet unique, and tug at your heartstrings for a variety of reasons. 

There's Ginny, the 15-year-old miniature dachshund who is losing her eyesight and hearing, suffers from dementia and is recovering from a stroke. And Peetrie, a teeny tiny toy poodle that looks like a troll doll. Also Toby, the wirehaired fox terrier featured on the cover of the book who unleashed THE FRENZY when presented with a squeaky toy. A number of doodles. And I've discovered I'm kind of in love with Boykin spaniels.  Wow those dogs have soul. Teal, Scout, Dove, Bullet, Bliss and Dovewood's Millie. All beauties. Then there's a Great Dane named Monty that looks like Benedict Cumberbatch. The author/photographer points this out and it's true. 

The course of the year brought runners, biters, barkers, chasers, sleepers, chewers, scratchers, nippers, farters, growlers, and lickers into the studio. Musi jokes that those were just the owners but we all know dogs who fit these categories. The most important detail of the work, however, is that Musi was making photographs directly for the people who want them, and when they say it means the world to them, it means the world to the photographer to get it right. And that's what it's all about.

Nov 20, 2019