Dog Years

One of the first things I ask my intro to art students to do is to share the work of a favorite artist.   The class is for students majoring in anything but the arts and I often get one of two types of replies.  First of those is they offer up the work of someone very famous like Leonardo da Vinci or Pablo Picasso and truthfully, I view those answers with a bit of suspicion.  It’s not that they are not great artists and their work isn’t something that can (and should) be appreciated, but rather I don’t think that their work necessarily resonates with most young adults.  Still, those kinds of answers are better than the other common reply – that they don’t know any artists (because they are non-art majors) – that is the only answer that disappoints me because I know it can’t possibly be true.  It’s a good discussion to start the semester because it quickly demonstrates that art is more than famous paintings or sculptures created by a small number of artists but rather is something that is created by artists both famous and unknown every day.  Once they start thinking about their favorite music, movies, photographs, and more, a little light bulb seems to go off and they are ready to think about art in a new way.  That’s a nice way to start a semester of art appreciation.

Okay so it's hard to argue that the man that created masterpieces like the Last Supper doesn't belong on anyone's short list of favorite artists.

Okay so it’s hard to argue that the man that created masterpieces like the Last Supper doesn’t belong on anyone’s short list of favorite artists.

Anyhoo, last week I mentioned that I’ve also been thinking about my favorite artists and that I’d share some of their work today.  There are so many artists whose work I admire that it would be impossible to narrow the list down to just one favorite artist.  Instead I have lists of artists whose work I admire and I draw inspiration from so I thought I might share of those favorites with you from time to time.  Today I want to share the work of Amanda Jones.

I could name hundreds of pet photographers today but back when I picked up photography Amanda Jones was the only photographer I knew of specializing in pet photography.  As a Bark Magazine subscriber, I would admire her beautiful cover photos then later when I bought some studio gear, I analyzed her work to learn how to properly light Little Bit and Lyle.

One of my early studio portraits featuring Little Bit.

One of my early studio portraits featuring Little Bit.

Jump forward a few years – I found myself photographing adoptable animals for my graduate thesis work at the Academy of Art University.  One day I was talking to the director of my program and he mentioned that Amanda Jones used to be his photo assistant (small world, right?) and he made introductions that resulted in working with her for a semester of independent study.  It was an honor to work with someone whose work I had admired for a number of years!

I choose to write about Amanda Jones and her work today because she recently published a new book called Dog Years.  She has been a professional photographer a couple of decades and because of that, she’s had the opportunity to re-photograph a number of her canine models as they aged.  Dog Years chronicles those lives starting from when they were cute little puppies to when they were wise old seniors.  It is such a great idea for a book for so many reasons not the least of which is that in a growing genre of pet photography, it reestablishes Amanda Jones as the leader in her field because her body of work is unique – there is no other pet photographer that has been shooting in the same style for long enough to document the lives of so many dogs in this way. Of course it is also very cool in that it shares the lives of much loved dogs in a way that is more than a little bittersweet.  By their nature, photographs only share a slice of life but by virtue of sharing these photos as series, we can witness lives well lived.

The following two photos are of her own dog Lily and represent perfectly what her book is about.

Lily at 15 years.  Photo by Amanda Jones.

Lily at 8 months. Photo by Amanda Jones.

Lily at 8 months.  Photo by Amanda Jones.

Lily at 15 years. Photo by Amanda Jones.

Her work continues to inspire me and and as someone who has photographed my own dogs over the years, I can really relate to the driving force behind her new book.  Dog Years was published by Chronicle Books and is available everywhere books are sold.

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This is Blue – she’s a sweet pit mix and she’s waiting at Pima Animal Care Center for the perfect family to come adopt her. She’s about 3 and was brought to the shelter because her family couldn’t afford to care for her. She already knows some basic obedience and gets along with other dogs. She’s a real love bug. #adoptabull #adoptdontshop #loveabull #dropthelabels #worldphotographyday #PimaAnimalCareCenter #TucsonAZ #HeARTsSpeak


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