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Cover.  Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.
Cover. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

An Interview With 'The Dogist' Photographer Elias Weiss Friedman

Picture of Emma Backer
Updated: 28 November 2016
In honor of National Puppy Day, The Culture Trip spoke with Elias Weiss Friedman, the brilliant, New York City–based photographer behind the Instagram account The Dogist. The Dogist brings the personality and stories of New York City‘s dogs to life in captivating portraits, leaving viewers anxiously awaiting the next post.

Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to photography.

I grew up with a darkroom in the house, taking photos as a hobby. I always knew it was something I was passionate about, but [I] didn’t want to be an event photographer. I basically stumbled into this project when I saw a way I could combine two things I loved: photography and dogs.

Theodore James Franco Gatsby, French Bulldog, 2 months old. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Theodore James Franco Gatsby, French Bulldog, 2 months old. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Are there any photographers that have been an influence on your work?

Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist and Richard Avedon, among others. I like a simple portrait aesthetic.

What inspired you to start photographing dogs that you encountered on the street?

I saw an incredible story that nobody was really telling. Who are these dogs? It’s something any dog lover is curious about every time they see one walk down the street. I also missed having a dog of my own and wanted an excuse to pet them.

The name The Dogist is very reminiscent of Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist. Was he an influence in establishing your blog?

Yes, absolutely. The Sartorialist has a unique, authentic style of documenting people’s fashion that I admire. He just walked up to people he came across. Why couldn’t I do that for dogs? There are beautiful subjects everywhere!

Bamm-Bamm, Homer and Marge, Great Danes. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Bamm-Bamm, Homer and Marge, Great Danes. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

How do you approach owners and their dogs?

Very simply: “May I take a photo of your dog?” I get a “Yes,” and then it’s between me and the dog.

Gimlet, Pug, 4 months old. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Gimlet, Pug, 4 months old. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Most dogs are looking directly looking at the camera. Do you have any tricks for getting the dog to focus?

With squeaky toys and treats or by barking and making weird noises. Anything to capture their attention, if only for a moment.

Poldy, Lhasa Apso-Poodle Mix. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Poldy, Lhasa Apso-Poodle Mix. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

You are able to capture the essence and personality of your subject. How long do you spend with the dogs and their owners?

About one minute photographing the dog, and then usually about two minutes getting the dog’s info and story from the owner. It’s all pretty quick.

Mario and Gina, French Bulldog and Boston Terrier.Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Mario and Gina, French Bulldog and Boston Terrier.Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

What does a typical day and shoot look like for you?

In New York City — where I live — I shoot whenever the light is good, when there is unique weather like snow, when I want to check out a new park, when I’m running out of fresh pictures, when I want to get away from my emails, when I’m planning a special series, or for no specific reason at all! When I’m traveling I’ll be out shooting all day, every day, knowing that I may not be in the area for a while, if ever again! There’s nothing truly typical about street photography, especially with dogs.

Polo, French Bulldog, 2 years old. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Polo, French Bulldog, 2 years old. Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC.

Is there a particular dog or story that really resonated with you?

The stories about a dog’s struggle usually get to me. Whether it’s cancer, old age, or a troubled past, I find myself tearing up while composing a post like that. Those images, even without the caption, have an aspect of strength and resiliency, coupled with pain. It’s invariably emotional to hear them.

In honor of National Puppy Day, can you share your top three puppies that you have photographed?

Bruno, Solomon, Onslo

Is there a dream dog that you would like to photograph, and why?

I would like to photograph the Oketz dogs of the Israeli Defense Force. If there were such thing as a ‘super dog,’ they would be it.

Can you tell us about your program, Give A Dog A Bone?

The Give a Dog a Bone program helps get dogs out of shelters by bringing attention to adoptable dogs. I visit various shelters and allow my audience to purchase a bone for me to deliver to the dog that needs help and to be cheered up. This helps them get some much-needed exposure, and all proceeds go back to the featured shelters. As far as I know, every dog that I’ve featured has since found a home or been put into foster care.

Your book, The Dogist, has been incredibly successful! Can you give us a sneak peek into the next book that you are working on?

I shouldn’t say much, but it will feature a lot more storytelling and some special, never-before-published photo series.