As a National Geographic photographer Vincent J. Musi is familiar with taking pictures of wild animals. His subjects have included lions, elephants, orangutans, tigers. But a few years ago, Musi packed away his passport and refocused his lens on a more familiar animal, dogs.
The unusual segue was because Musi wanted to stay closer to home after his son, Hunter’s sixteenth birthday. “My wife, Callie, and I realized that he was quickly turning into a grown-up and would be leaving the nest before we knew it,” he said.
“Wanting to spend as much time as possible with Hunter before the metamorphosis was complete, I decided to forgo all assignments that involved travel, which was pretty much all assignments,” Musi explained. “There are no National Geographic photographers who work from home that I know of; travel to the places you are photographing is pretty much a mandatory kind of thing.”
Although Musi has no dog of his own, he decided dogs would be his focus. He built a studio in the back fo a pet-food store in his hometown and advertised that people could bring their dogs. He spent a year taking portrait photographs of everyday dogs.
“I named it The Unleashed Studio and announced that I was looking for a few good dogs. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing,” Musi said. “My colleagues felt bad for me and wondered if I was losing it. I started to wonder myself.”
But with help from his wife and son, his studio was soon visited by an array of dogs. His son, Hunter, also came up with the idea that he should post up stories about the dogs he photographed and post them to Instagram. Musi wasn’t convinced initially, but he began to get lots of positive feedback.
“‘Nobody cares about other people’s dogs,’ I said,” Musi explained. “I was wrong about that. We’ve received the kindest reaction from all over the world to these fabulous dogs. People write to me when they laugh, when they cry, when they accidentally spit out their morning coffee over a joke or photograph.”
Over a year, he took photographs of many different dogs – all with unique characteristics. From a Labrador Retriever that likes opera to a kleptomaniac miniature golden doodle, Musi’s pictures capture the wonderful personalities of his subjects.
Now his efforts have been collected in a new book – The Year of the Dogs – which includes 100 doggie portraits along with Musi’s chronicles of each of his furry subjects.
For Musi, the experience has been incredibly rewarding. “I read every comment, message, email, and am humbled by the connection we have made,” he said. He added that he is having the best time of his life taking photographs of dogs and that it has been the most fulfilling body of work he has been involved in.