The History of Photographing Mans Best Friend

The year was 1816 but one fact remained the same, even then – People loved their dogs.

A woman named Josephine Niepce invented the first Camera. Her inspiration? Wanting to capture an image of her beloved dog.

People were stunned and the wealthy dog owners lined up for the opportunity to have a photo taken with their beloved pooches.

Leighton, R. The New Book of the Dog. Commons.wikimedia.org

It wouldn’t be until 1840’s when more common dog owners could afford to participate in this trend as well.

Family poses with a dog sitting on a chair” by simpleinsomnia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Cordelia Knott with child, dog and turkey on Knott family homestead, Newberry Springs, 1910s” by Orange County Archives is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Moving into the 1920’s, camera’s became available for the general public to own, the number of pet photos sky rockets!

In 1948, the Polaroid Camera was invented. It’s was invented by dog owners who simply couldn’t wait for their film to be developed to see their pets!

Polaroid man and dog” by anyjazz65 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

1984 Digital Cameras came around that allowed its users to view photos instantly but discard unwanted images. If your hounds eyes are shut you’d know then and there!

Color Photography began to pop up 1960’s and ’70’s

Photograph – Bernice Kopple, Dogs and Cacti, Australia, 1970s” by Unknown photographer is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Starting in the early 2000’s people are able to take photos on the cell phones

Selfie with a stray” by philos from Athens is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One the camera phone was invented – so were selfies and no ones perfected the selfie like the dog.

Richmond Animal League” by Gamma Man is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In current times, a photo of a dog is still precious but more common. We see them on social media, framed at home or work, as screen savors on peoples phones and even as videos. This doesn’t mean they’re any less special though.

“My dog on your screen” by Katherine Schaal
“My Old Screensaver” by Katherine Schaal

As a Dog Mom myself, I can say that I will use any opportunity to show off a picture of my pup and I’m glad that we have the technology available to do so.

“My Pup” by Katherine Schaal

Reflective Essay:

When creating my Photo Essay assignment, I immediately gravitated towards the untrue option. It’s very rare we, as students, are provided an opportunity to truly create and story tell. While looking through the topic options I thought about articles I enjoy perusing through personally. I enjoy learning the history of things especially when photos are involved. The background of something is often more interesting than just the topic itself. To make the “History of Photography” topic more exciting and tailored more towards my interests, I decided to add dogs! Not everyone is a dog person, but I’m sure everyone can appreciate the love between a pet and their owner. I then attempted to tell the story of photos of dogs through time.

I knew in my head what I wanted this to look like but not being able to ‘steal’ others photos off of a simple Google search added a level of difficulty I wasn’t expected. I never thought of this act as “stealing” until after this lesson but I see now that those photos belong to the individuals who created them and using them without permission is wrong. I had made some compromises on my overall vision though. My original thought was to use almost the same pose but show it through different decades and from using different mediums. I thought “a woman holding a dog” would be easy enough, but alas it was not. I would say I spend the majority of my time just trying to find good photos to use.

I attempted to keep each photo head on at eye level with the subject (the dogs) as the main focus of the pictures. I also attempted to keep each photograph believable for its time period. I found the approximate dates the landmarks were happening as they say the best lies are based on truth but with so little words its hard to truly tell the history. I thought portrait shots best told this story since each item was supposed to be ‘man’ and ‘mans best friend’. This helped build the environment and its characters.

I narrated the timeline with quick, concise ‘facts’ of each event being portrayed. An example of my thought structure was, “This lady invented the camera – insert photo of lady. People loved it – insert photo of people.”, and so on.

The technique I often see when people share historic information is simple – following a timeline. I began in 1816 when the first camera was actually invented and move forward in time from there. I thought of different possible monumental moments and technological advances, like color photos, digital, polaroid and so on and developed a timeline from there.

I ended the timeline at current day. I think looking at the photos from start to finish shows the dramatic changes and the evolution of photography. Of course, I ended with my clincher photo which I fell ended the story and proved the overall point. The point being people love their dogs. (Also, a shameless opportunity to share some pictures of my own puppy.)

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