Elke Vogelsang : a dog's life

© Elke Vogelsang

Cette photographe allemande a le chic avec les chiens. Pour eux, elle a quitté il y a près de dix ans sa vie de traductrice pour ne se consacrer qu’à la photo. C’est lorsqu’elle a failli perdre son mari d’une hémorragie cérébrale que tout a changé. Et c’est peut-être un peu pour cela que ses portraits touchent bien au-delà du public lambda des adorateurs canins. Il y a dans ces photographies un petit quelque chose en plus. Indéfinissable comme un point de bascule. Depuis 2011, elle vit de son travail et près de 75000 personnes la suivent sur Instagram : @wieselblitz. Rencontre.

Scout dans sa bulle.

Z : How and why did you start photography?
E.V. :
Photography was always more a less a part of my life as my mother  always made sure I had a camera with me when being on school  excursions, etc. But I just snapped away. With my first digital camera I became more interested, that was in 2004. And with my first dog  Noodles I had a motif that really interested me and made me want to become a better photographer. That was in 2007.
But my photography obsession started with a one-picture-a-day project  on January 01, 2010. I began this project as a diary for my husband  who was suffering from a brain hemorrhage and spent two weeks in a coma and three months with no short-term memory. The project was also  a way for me to try to keep up a bit of normality. Fortunately, my  husband recovered fully and was back home and healthy again after only  a few months, but the project lasted much longer. This means I took  pictures every day and put them on the internet. This improved my  photography and my eye for detail enormously. Until then I had worked  as a freelance translator. More and more people asked me if I could photograph their dog, too. Therefore, I decided to change my life and become a photographer by profession.

« Mon obsession a commencé avec un projet très personnel, le 1er janvier 2010 : une image par jour. C’était un journal intime destiné à mon mari qui a passé deux semaines dans le coma et trois mois sans mémoire à court terme. »


Z : How and why did you start to photograph animals in general, and your  dogs particularly?
E.V. : During that one picture a day project my dogs were often the models,  as they were my only sparetime in those stressful months. More and  more people asked me if I could photograph their dogs, too. I believe in specialization and it was quite obvious that dogs would be mine. As  I turned my hobby into a profession I would like to do only what I love to dog. And that's photographing pets.

Le sourire de Shiva.

Z : Our love about our domestic animals in occidental society reveals  something on your opinion?
E.V. :
Let’s admit it, they please us. They are great fun. They are gorgeous  to look at, charming and cuddly. Their loveable, adoring nature  appeals to us. They are loyal, protective, cheerful and altogether great company. Dogs give you all their attention. They can make the  shiest people feel better about themselves. Studies found that dog  owners tend to be less lonely, less fearful and more extrovert than  people without dogs. Regular dog walking improves your fitness and  lowers your risk of a variety of diseases. Dog owners are said to recover faster from depression, stress and illnesses compared to  people without dogs. The companionship of a dog is a natural mood  lifter and thus beneficial for your health, too. So a dog can be a  great help in our pursuit for happiness. But a harmonious relationship  should benefit all parties. Dogs give us so much and ask little in  return. What do we give back to them? I’m not talking about the  basics, like food, a place to sleep and medical care. There is a saying: ‘A dog is a dog is a dog’. Every dog should be allowed to get  dirty, to roll in smelly stuff , to jump around, to play, to be out in  the fields and forests. In short, it should be allowed to be a dog as  much as this is possible in today’s world. A dog is not a second-rate  substitute for a human being. A dog is a first-rate canine companion.

« Tous les chiens devraient être autorisés à se salir, à se rouler dans une matière puante, à sauter, à jouer, à courir dans les champs et les forêts. »


Z : You work for animal’s shelters, what did you learn with abandoned  animals? The work, the link is different I imagine?
E.V. : Yes, the work with former stray dogs can be very different. I went to  Morocco to document the live of stray dogs and word of animal rescue  organizations there. I took pictures of the dogs living on the  streets. Here I have to document whatever they present me with. I  can't throw treats or get out a squeaker, I have to be more of a documentary photographer. I also went to Spain to photograph dogs in a  shelter. These dogs had lived on the streets and didn't know any basic  commands. Some of them were afraid. You have to be extra gentle and  patient.

Z : How do you work with your dogs? What is your secret to reveal their  personalities? Of your personal dogs, Noodle, Scout and Ioli (race?  Age? Who is who?), and the others too!
E.V. :
Noodles (female) is a 12 year old mutt from Spain. Scout is 10 years  old, a Galgo Español mix and also from Spain. And Ioli was born in  Germany. His mother arrived from Spain heavily pregnant with him and  his many brothers and sisters.
All three of them are very different in character. Noodles is a  sighthound German shepherd mix with the friendliness of a sighthound  and the work ethics of a shepherd. She does everything for treats. You  can teach her every trick. You just have to make sure she doesn't  break her neck as she suddenly decides that some tree or wall might be a good photo location and she jumps up on it.
The most difficult part is to try to take the other one out of the  shot as they all want to be in the limelight.
Ioli always looks a bit the same. He's very noise-sensitive and  therefore always "scanning" with his ears, which makes him look a bit  grumpy, even though he is a very funny and happy dog.

Noodles.


Z : Who is your favorite photographer?
E.V. : Tim Flach and Martin Usborne.

Z :Do you have cats ?
E.V. :
Again, we had family cats when I was young, but I don't have any cats  nowadays. My dogs wouldn't be too fond of them. But I love cats a lot.

Z : It's different to work with cats, there is a different way to access  to their personnalities?
E.V. :
Yes, cats are more difficult to photograph. Younger cats, which are  still playful, are easier to photograph. But a very shy cat might be  too intimidated to come out to pose for my camera no matter how much patience I have. Of course, there are very fearful dogs, too, but dogs  often are more trusting and easier to "bribe" than cats.

Z : What is your projects for 2019?
E.V. : I just started another 52 weeks project, where I will set myself a  task every week to improve my photography, try out different genres  and approaches, work on creativity and improving my business and life. People can join me if they like. Follow my Stories on Instagram:  @wieselblitz

I also work on a second book.

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