Meet Jesse Freidin: voted San Francisco’s Best Dog Photographer for the last four years. He shoots solely in analog, creating timeless black-and-white images with his 1970 Hasselbald camera. The Impossible Project—the manufacturers of new instant film for old Polaroids—often supply Freidin with rare film (once used to shoot the sensational Doggie Gaga Project that went viral in 2010). When he’s not in his studio or his darkroom, the photographer teaches dog portrait workshops at Impossible’s New York Project Space. Here, a glimpse into his analog life.
Did you always want to be a photographer?
I became fascinated with photography at a very young age—The magic of viewing my world through a tiny viewfinder became a way of interacting with life that made sense to me. It felt creative and freeing, and was a way of articulating myself that I was not able to do with language.
What photographers have influenced you?
Photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus and Duane Michaels gave me permission to use portraiture as a mode of storytelling, and also encouraged me to feel comfortable within the complex and sometimes dark space of the observer. What I love about portraiture is that it is collaborative—both sitter and artist must participate equally. I am drawn to photographers who don’t shy away from that tension.
What do you love about analog photography in particular?
I shoot film simply because it gives me complete control of my images, and produces what I think is the most beautiful image I can create. Photography is a very hands-on medium for me, much like what painting or sculpture must be like. There are certain tools that are intrinsic to the process, and simply cannot be taken away. For me, that is film and chemistry. Analog photography forces the artist to be very closely united with their creative process, and I would never choose to give that autonomy up for a quick short cut.
How did you get into photographing dogs?
I moved to California many years ago and began working at a dog day care, not really knowing anything about dogs. My first day there I had a life-changing experience with a huge pit bull named Lennox that opened my eyes to the power and beauty of the dog/human connection. Ever since then I have been fascinated with exploring that bond.
What do you look for in a good dog subject?
The best dog subject is one that will really present itself to me. That could be a tiny Chihuahua or a huge, slobbery Great Dane. The photography is the easy part; pulling something beautiful out of a living, breathing animal with a mind of its own is the challenge. But a very fun challenge.
How important is photography in the world of animal rescue?
It’s crucial. And it’s great to see shelters using modern design elements and strong photography in their campaigns. People stop feeling sorry for the animals and seeing the sad parts, and begin feeling uplifted by these potential new family members.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on two creative side projects: American Sporting Heritage, which documents the intimate bond between contemporary hunter and their dogs (currently on exhibit at The National Sporting Library and Museum in Virginia), and DOG FOOD, a fun series of portraits of dogs with food names.
All images courtesy of Jesse Freidin
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