Many of us are easily amazed by wildlife photography. Growing up in crowded cities, we see exotic animals in the zoos but it’s really rare to actually have a chance to see animals in the wild, running free without a care in the world. However, for some people, it’s a regular day’s work.
Legendary National Geographic photographer Vincent J. Musi started his career 38 years ago with a series of internships but being a talented photographer, he was offered a chance to work as a contributor for the National Geographic magazine. And that’s how his already 26-year journey began. Known for his spectacular wildlife photographs, he has traveled the world to capture the mesmerizing beauty of lions, tigers, and bears. Let’s admit that it’s something most of us don’t usually do!
“Ed is a very well designed dog. If he were a concept vehicle, he might be a Jeep. Not one of those fancy Jeeps with the heated leather seats and an info-tainment system but more like the kind the U.S. Postal Service use in the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Ed’s twelve years old and just about that many inches high, so he’s not the tallest or the fastest or even the strongest dog you’ll ever meet but he can leap tall steps in a single bound. I agree, the mechanics of this don’t really make sense but I assure you, the dog can defy gravity when the need arises. I observed this from up close and more than once in his new home just up the road from my own. Ed followed an entourage of tall people around on a tour, up and down, scaling steps with the best of them, never getting far enough behind to be considered late. I would also note for the record that he excelled in his hardwood floor skills.
Mrs. Nawrocki, my well-designed and sturdily built high-school English teacher would not be pleased with my casual disregard of all things she taught me in the way of sentence structure, grammar and punctuation. If she were still alive, I know she would be as thrilled to read your kind comments about my dispatches as I am.”
Everything changed when his son turned sixteen and Musi decided to take a year off traveling the world to spend it with his teenage son. Compared to the life he had, it was something different so he cultivated his roots at home and opened a hometown studio to photograph dogs.
“Those of you who think a sweet dog like Nessie would never escape would be wrong. Callie and I pride ourselves on elaborate precautionary measures yet protocol may not have been followed the day Nessie showed up, posed for one photograph and made a break for the doors reminiscent of Triple Crown winner Justify barreling down the home stretch at Belmont Park. This was not expected as you might expect.
It could be the whole cavalier part of being a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. More likely is the connection to her namesake, the fabled Loch Ness Monster, who also posed for one photograph and was never seen again. Fortunately, our Loch Nessie was found, returned and photographed without injury or arrest.”
“Many people envision our work in the studio as a high-energy, creative experience with me shouting “beautiful baby, beautiful” and the dogs responding with pose after pose like models before the lens of the famous fashion photographer and international spy, Austin Powers. The reality is, I’m somewhat unable to speak when in the process of making photographs. It’s a genetic flaw or some right brain/left brain quirk realized for the first time when I was rejected from my childhood garage band for not being able to sing and play drums at the same time. Damn you Phil Collins.
When we work, this leaves me with a limited menu of grunting noises and the occasional guttural outburst, which I still find helpful in getting an animals attention. It also passes for a kind of barbaric shorthand between Callie and I, until she tires of it and gets mad at me, which she finds helpful in getting my attention.
Zorro is a 12 year-old Standard Poodle, too damn smart to get in the middle of our bickering. He tried to stay neutral but always sided with Callie. This is often the case with the nice lady holding food and I am still learning to live with rejection. This is more frustrating because Zorro is a very special dog that lights up a room when he enters and I want a dog like that to like me.
More caregiver than therapy dog, Zorro has always been there for the people who needed him most, some at the end of their lives and some who would miss those people the most. Our connection was fleeting and dramatic, a longer version of the moment is stored in my memory like a slow motion fight scene from the Matrix.
This photograph came together when I was finally able to vocalize a sound that engaged Zorro. I was trying to say his name but it came out with a poor rationing of consonants to vowels; Shtwa -thwo-or-oht-za-moAlshs. This stopped Zorro, deeply engaged with Callie and a snack of some kind, He turned to me, tilted his head and then he gave me -The Eyes; the eyes that had comforted, the eyes that had gotten him out of trouble, the eyes that had earned him more than his fair share of mac and cheese. And then, Zorro burped. Beautiful baby, beautiful.”
The result is The Year of the Dogs; over 100 one-of-a-kind dogs from Musi’s year in the studio matched with witty dogographies gleaned from his time spent with each subject. From a Labrador that likes the opera to a kleptomaniac miniature golden doodle, and a lovable one-eyed Jack Russell to a farting bulldog, Musi captures the unique character and personality of these everyday dogs with 190 evocative images and a gently comical mash-up of his own personal life experiences.