with Elke Vogelsang
Unlike the affectionate canine companions that grace many of Elke Vogelsang’s portraits, the cats she finds in front of her camera exhibit more irritable, even stereotypical emotions. She captures her feline subjects with a range of reactions, whether snarling and baring their teeth or showing off their more playful sides with leaps into the air or a quick flick of their tongues.
A professional pet portraitist, Vogelsang mostly visits her subjects at their homes rather than bringing them to her Hildesheim studio. This tends to make the animals more comfortable, she shares, at least enough for her to coax out more genuine emotions with the help of string, feathers, treats, and sometimes catnip for mood-boosting. “Let’s face it, cats can be so much harder to photograph than dogs. If they can’t be bothered, they won’t do it for our sake,” she says. “In general, sessions with cats are shorter than sessions with dogs. They are the ones to determine the schedule.”
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Typically known for their care-free attitudes, the dogs in Elke Vogelsang’s portraits are experiencing some of their more intense moments of canine anticipation, like waiting for a taste of bacon cream or finding the right time to snatch a squeaky toy. The Hildesheim, Germany-based photographer captures the canine’s fleeting expressions, shown through tilting heads, open-mouthed smiles, and wide-eyed stares. Each piece is matched with an equally playful title, like “The Dog Side of the Force” and “Bessy Muppetational.”
Vogelsang began photographing her three rescue dogs during a period of family hardship that started in 2009—she was charged with caring for her mother-in-law, who was suffering from dementia, shortly before her husband was in a coma due to a ruptured aneurysm. “I decided to start the project, despite my husband being in the hospital, or rather because of it, as I wanted to try to keep up a bit of normality and have something like a visual diary for my husband of that time,” she tells Colossal.
Now, the photographer’s work has expanded beyond the absurd images of her furry family members, and she tries to “get to know as many dogs as possible. Each and every one of them will have their own personality.” She’s traveled to Morocco and Spain to capture the lives of those living in shelters and on the streets, which has posed unique challenges. She “had to document whatever I was presented with. I couldn’t throw treats or get out a squeaker. Here I have to learn to wait for the decisive moment…These dogs had lived on the streets and didn’t know any basic commands. Those can be very difficult to photograph. ”
In order to get such revealing shots, Vogelsang isn’t afraid to appeal to their canine desires. “With every dog I learn a new trick. The energetic terrier might need action to really enjoy the session, while the sensitive sighthound might prefer a very calm environment and some super treats,” she writes. “The key is patience, trust, repetition and lots and lots of bribery.”
To see more of Vogelsang’s posing pups, head to her Instagram.
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It goes without saying that one of the most ubiquitous sightings on the web are millions upon trillions of pet photos. Cat gifs, funny dog videos, puppy memes, and even an entire currency. But every once in a while an animal (or group of animals), paired with the right photographer, rises above the mammalian fray and enters the realm of art. We’ve seen it here on Colossal with the works of Carli Davidson, Seth Casteel, Theron Humphrey & Maddie, and Sonya Yu & Trotter. Enter the latest contenders: self-taught photographer Elke Vogelsang and her three dogs Noodles, Scout and Loli.
Based in Hildesheim, Germany, Vogelsang is a professional photographer who mostly shoots portraits of people and pets, but in her spare time spends plenty of time with her trio of rescue dogs who frequently find themselves in front of the camera. Two of the dogs are Galgo Español mixes and the youngest, Loli, is a bonafide mut. Regardless of their pedigree, Vogelsang has a knack for capturing the dogs at their most expressive moments, resulting in photos that are equally heartwarming and humorous.
Update: Vogelsang shares some tips with SLR Lounge on getting the most out of your pet photoshoot.
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