Throughout his career as a National Geographic photographer, Vincent J. Musi regularly traveled around the world to take pictures of lions, bears, elephants, tigers and other wildlife. But in 2017 he decided to train his lens on a more common animal – dogs.
Using the skills and expertise he honed over decades, Musi spent a year taking portraits of our furry companions and the results have been published in a new book, The Year of the Dogs. The coffee table book includes wonderful close-up portraits along with Musi’s impressions of the personalities of his canine subjects, such as encounters with a farting bulldog and a Labrador Retriever who likes opera.
But why did Musi switch from large wild animals to man’s best friend in the first place?
“In the spring of our son Hunter’s sixteenth year, my wife, Callie, and I realized that he was quickly turning into a grown-up and would be leaving the nest before we knew it,” Musi explains. “Wanting to spend as much time as possible with Hunter before the metamorphosis was complete, I decided to forgo all assignments that involved travel, which was pretty much all assignments.”
Musi says that travel is “pretty much a mandatory thing” when it comes to being a National Geographic photographer, so he reinvented himself as a dog photographer, building a studio in the back fo a pet-food store.
“I named it The Unleashed Studio and announced that I was looking for a few good dogs. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My colleagues felt bad for me and wondered if I was losing it. I started to wonder myself,” he says.
With help from his wife and son, Musi set up the studio and invited people to bring in their dogs. Hunter came up with the idea that his dad should write stories about the dogs he photographs and post them to Instagram. Musi didn’t see the point in doing that…at first.
“‘Nobody cares about other people’s dogs,’ I said. I was wrong about that. We’ve received the kindest reaction from all over the world to these fabulous dogs,” Musi reveals. “People write to me when they laugh, when they cry, when they accidentally spit out their morning coffee over a joke or photograph.”
Musi now has clients who travel hundreds or even thousands of miles with their dogs to be photographed in his studio.
Musi says that some people feel bad for him, now that he has transitioned from photographing exotic animals to the dogs. But he says the new direction is the most fulfilling body of work of his career thus far and that he is having the best time of his life.