Great photographs often show us a new way to look at something familiar; they surprise us. Leafing through Tim Flach’s Dogs (Harry N. Abrams, 216 pp., $50) was a treat because his images of our canine friends surprised me again and again.
Just take a look at the cover to see what I mean – you can’t look away from his dreadlocked puli. Is that really a dog? Apparently, the puli was used as a herding dog in Hungary for more than 1,000 years – although not with this particular hairdo. (When pulis were on the job, they sported shorter styles.) Don’t miss the proof sheet of the shoot. The dog’s hair flies in every direction as he runs toward the photographer. You can see how Flach got his best shot after firing off many frames.
The book is coffee-table size, with full-frame images of dogs, just dogs – no humans. Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, of course, and many of the more interesting and unusual are included in this collection. There is the sad-eyed, enormous Tibetan mastiff – a status symbol in China (with a $522,000 price tag). A wonderful group shot of Siberian huskies out in the snow shows off their beautiful blue, gold, or brown eyes. The inside cover is a close-up of the distinctive fur pattern running down the spine of a Rhodesian ridgeback.
Flach often poses his subjects in front of black or white backdrops, which focuses the viewer on the animals’ characteristics. By taking them out of context, we are forced to look closer. I love the shot of the black dog against a black backdrop shaking off water. At first glance it’s almost an abstract... and then you see the dog. Fabulous!
Other favorite shots include the bichon frisé with a hairstyle like a round globe, a pile of Dalmatian puppies, a Yorkshire terrier looking up from its silky hair, and, best of all, an enormous great Dane looking down at a tiny Chihuahua. More disturbing, but fascinating, are the shots of “creative grooming” imposed on some unfortunate poodles – which include spray color.
This book will appeal to all ages. I know this because it was lying around our house on Thanksgiving Day and everyone wanted a look at it – from college-age to senior citizen. They all oohed and aahed. If you’re a dog lover, or even a dog liker, it’s a keeper.
This is Flach’s second book. I’d also check out his first, “Equus,” filled with beautiful images of horses.
Melanie Stetson Freeman is a Monitor staff photographer.