The moment before writing this article about why I love to make photos of my dogs so madly, I deleted a previously finished draft touching on the same theme. It just felt inappropriate, focusing more on the when and how the dogs (a.k.a. The Boys) became a part of our family (or pack?) instead of communicating what they really mean to me.
Some people say that dogs are just pets. But to me, they are family.
I never wanted kids; I always wanted pets. And for us, The Boys make us a "we." They are not substitutes, nor is their importance to us any sign that we are lacking in human relationships. And even this text will not cover the "why" -- let's just say writing of words is not my favourite way to communicate. That's what the camera is for.
I learned a major lesson about the quality of our relationship recently, when one evening, our senior Rüdiger went missing for sixteen grueling hours. As we found out later, he was safe at our local shelter after being brought there by some friendly people. Luckily, and to our great relief, he was unharmed.
But during that long night, my wife, our other dog Romeo, and I were worried sick. I spent the night searching the grass and woodland area where he got lost every single hour -- armed with a flashlight and Rüdiger's favourite squeaky toy to grab his attention just in case he might be anywhere near. In between, I spent the waiting time at our camper van in a state between wake and sleep. I was sleep deprived and could not keep from imagining all kinds of worst case scenarios.
The situation crashed down on me when I realized, the only tangible memory to maintain if he got lost for ever, are the photos. All other signs of his physical presence, the warmth of his body, the bits and pieces of his fur scattered everywhere in our appartment, his scent – all will vanish.
First, this made me incredibly sad.
But then I realized...the photos are not the treasure, although they do have value. The real treasure lies in my memory -- all these reminiscences of dog walks, cuddles, kisses, tickles. And all the memories of the time we spent together to make these photos I was trying to write about.
It is the "making of" each photo that is so precious. We have explored so many places together, both at home and on our travels, Together we wandered the landscapes -- goofing around, searching the most beautiful places, waiting for the most beautiful light. Me ruining several trousers crawling on my knees on all sorts of terrain -- grass, soil, sand, mud, sea -- looking through the waist level finder, waiting for that gesture, unposed pose, a yawn, eyelids to get heavy before my companions fall asleep. All of those places. All of those moments.
More than that, there is another treasure to be found in the increased awareness of living the moment -- experiences we share, the profound connections with our loved ones, the places, the scent, the light, and all the places deep inside of us, all the memories.
Some people say the camera stands between us and the subject, detaching the photographer from "the real experience." But I find it to be the opposite: With the camera, we can create more possibilities and real experiences to connect with someone or something we deeply care about on a profound level. Thus the camera enriches our lives, weaving our single paths with the paths of others, making us a part of the big picture called "life."