A street photographer travelled around the world to take action-packed shots of adorable dogs
- British photographer Chris Porsz has traveled the world taking pictures of adorable dogs for his new book "Barking."
- Porsz first began his photography career taking pictures of the interesting characters who stood out in the streets of the UK in the 1980s.
- Recently he decided to focus on candid canine shots, traveling everywhere from Manhattan and London to Rome and Budapest.
- Porsz spoke to Insider about his career, why he loves taking dog photos, and just how he captures those picture-perfect shots.
- For more visit Business Insider South Africa.
Have you ever seen a man with a camera kneel down low, almost to the floor, and let out a little "woof" to capture the perfect picture of a pup?
If you have, then you may have come across British photographer Chris Porsz, who has traveled hundreds of miles to take pictures of adorable dogs all around the world.
And all his hard work has paid off in the form of "Barking," a new book that contains more than 100 of his candid canine shots.
Business Insider spoke with Porsz about how his career began, his technique for capturing such picture-perfect moments, and why dogs make the best photography subjects.
When Porsz, 66, first began taking pictures in the 1980s, he was fascinated by "the punks and the teddy boys" who stood out in the crowded streets of the UK.
A longtime dog lover, Porsz also snapped photos of a few pups here and there, he told Insider. But in 1985 he decided to pack up his camera and focus on his family and full-time job as a paramedic.
In 2009, Porsz rekindled his passion for pictures after sending some photos of his work to his local paper, the Peterborough Evening Telegraph.
The paper gave him a column, dubbed "Paramedic Paparazzo," and his photography career began anew.
Porsz went all across the UK and Europe for two of his photography books, "Streets of Europe" and "Streets of Britain."
He traveled to the likes of Amsterdam, Paris, London, Berlin, Manchester, Dublin, Venice, Copenhagen, and more to capture the cities most interesting characters.
But Porsz was also fascinated with the dogs he saw along the way, and ended up taking hundreds of pictures of pups as well.
Porsz told Business Insider that he was inspired to start searching for "more funny dogs" on the streets after seeing an image by the American photographer Elliot Erwitt, who has published five books filled with candid dog pictures.
"As the great man said, 'I don't know of any other animals closer to us in qualities of heart, sentiment, and loyalty,'" Porsz said, quoting Erwitt.
Martyn Moore, Porsz's photo editor, also encouraged him to publish a new book that focused entirely on his pup photography.
In the foreword for "Barking," Moore revealed that he had told Porsz to simply choose 100 images from his already "varied and entertaining" collection of dog pictures.
"I distinctly remember telling Chris that he already had enough unpublished images and that he should treat the project less seriously than he had his first four books," Moore wrote.
"What did Chris Porsz do? He went out and shot hundreds more dog photos."
Porsz spent the last year taking photographs specifically for "Barking," traveling across the UK as well as New York to add to the pictures he had already taken while shooting for his previous two books.
Porsz kept his full-time job as a paramedic, sometimes using his two days off to take a train to a city 480 kilometres away in the hopes of taking a few good photos of pups.
"Sometimes I'd walk all day and return without even a sausage dog," he told Insider. "Fortunately, I have a very patient wife who probably enjoys the peace and quiet."
As with his previous books, Porsz wanted to focus on taking candid photographs of dogs that he spotted on the street.
"I am hopeless at formal portrait or studio photography, and I would not know how to use Flash and struggle with Photoshop," he said.
"I am an amateur who dabbles at it and cannot possibly compete with the pros. But what I can do is walk many miles and find something unique."
"I love the spontaneity of the streets and I'm inspired by what I see rather than what I can imagine in a studio," Porsz added. "I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but when I see a dog walking around in a pink tutu, how can you go wrong?"
Porsz has also found that taking pictures of dogs is quite similar to photographing people.
"Like people, they have their own personalities," he said. "Curious, both timid and bold towards me and my camera."
When it comes to photographing dogs with their owners, Porsz said he decides in the moment where to focus the shot.
"Sometimes I cut off the owner, as the dog is more interesting and they deserve center stage," he said. "Sometimes I keep the owner to show that loving intimate relationship."
But Porsz has found one big difference when it comes to photographing people versus dogs.
"Dogs never complain, whereas people sometimes do," he said. "I never have to apologize to the dog."
Porsz said some dogs' owners have given him a funny look, but he has found that a "smile and explanation goes a long way to diffuse things."
He also often offers the owners a copy of any pictures he took of their pup.
"Most are flattered and were over the moon when they discovered they had made the final cut," Porsz added.
But some dogs have growled at Porsz for getting too close.
"Occasionally I have had dogs growl and bark at me as I guess they are spooked at this barking man trying to take their picture," he said. "And they're protecting their owner too."
"Makes a good picture though!" he added. "I once got too close and a Yorkie cocked his leg over the camera!"
When it comes to technique, Porsz said it is essential to get down to the dog's level before taking their picture.
"I like and look for eye contact, as I think it makes the difference between an average picture and a great one," he said. "If they do not see me, I speak their language with a 'meow' or a 'woof.'"
He added that "people must think I am barking! But I usually get a smile from the owner."
Porsz said his goal is to take photos filled with action that look natural.
"I try to avoid posed static shots and am always looking for action to bring the images alive," Porsz said. "I also use a wide angle lens as I want the viewer to feel part of my picture and able to step right into it - plus, it captures the social context."
Porsz said he always carries around a camera that is "primed and ready to go at a fast shutter speed."
"Like my job as a paramedic, I never know what is around the next corner," he said. "You have to think on your feet and always be ready for the unexpected."
"All the world's a stage, so I just keep walking for miles as I did across New York," Porsz added. "Or I set my stage and then just wait for an hour or two, hoping that serendipity will be kind."
Taking photos on busy streets, Porsz has to dodge a few obstacles to get the perfect shot. "The worst thing is distracting messy backgrounds, white vans, and people getting in the way, so I walk around each subject looking at different angles," he said.
But Porsz doesn't go around taking photos of every pup he sees. It has to be the "right dog," he said.
"I know I want something different than the average posed image," he said. "I am never quite sure what I am looking for but, instinctively, I know it when I see it."
There has to be something unique about the subjects of Porsz's work.
"There are lots of Jack Russells, for instance, but then I'll see one leaping in a Superman costume and I'll think, 'I must have that,'" the photographer said. "Or I'll see a man carrying a big dog around Rome who I followed for half a mile. I don't know why, as when he put the dog down it walked perfectly well."
There have also been instances in which Porsz has gone back to the same spot for days on end, hoping to capture the perfect image.
For Porsz, it's sometimes all about the place and the timing.
"Barking is in East London and I just had to go," he said, speaking of the neighborhood that inspired the name of his book. "I had seen an image on the station that said 'Welcome to Barking' so that was my stage, and I waited and waited. I waited so long that security questioned me!"
"I went back on three separate days trying to get the shot," he added. "I was fairly happy with the one in the book, but it was not what I wanted with a dog barking."
Although he has taken hundreds upon hundreds of photographs of dogs, Porsz said his clear favorite is the Border Collie he captured leaping in the air in Manhattan's Union Square — which became the cover of his book.
"I was not even going to take it as the owner was just throwing a ball," he said. "But instinctively I raised my camera and fired away. The dog launched itself and flipped mid-air to face me."
"I knew it as soon as I clicked," he added. "It is dramatic, sharp, and surreal, and the shocked lady with the hand on her head makes it even better. It's probably one of the best photographs I have ever taken."
Porsz is still hoping that the owner of the Border Collie will find out about his book so that he can get a copy of the picture-perfect moment to her.
"I am sure she will be shocked that the image has gone around the world!" he said.
Another of Porsz's favorites is this picture of a pup in Brighton that he captured peeing over a sign which read, "Whoever said diamonds are a girl's best friend never owned a dog."
"I waited over an hour for that and went back a few times, but it was worth it," he said.
While Porsz doesn't have a favorite breed when it comes to taking photos of pups, he said he does love capturing Pulis in action.
Porsz is also a fan of photographing the "graceful Afghans, crazy Labradoodles, and very photogenic Italian Greyhounds."
And when it comes to the best place to photograph dogs, Porsz is especially partial to London and small seaside towns in the UK, along with Central Park in New York.
"In London, Kensington Gardens was great as owners can let their dogs off leashes," he said. "Parliament Hill was good too with its panoramic skyline of London as the backdrop."
"Brighton was one of the best and I went several times, and the small UK seaside town of Skegness was so good I went back around 10 times," he added. "I love seasides as people and dogs are happy and relaxed and everyone takes pictures, so it's easy to blend in."
After photographing dogs for so many years, Porsz said he has realized what an "intimate and close relationship folks have to their best friend."
"Dogs are always there for their owners when they are feeling a bit down after a hard day with their wagging tail," he said.
Porsz recalled the story of a retired paramedic named Tom, whose dog has helped him get through the death of his wife.
"He was grieving badly and staying at home, but his Greyhound dog has to be walked, so it gets him out where he meets people," Porsz said.
"It has made me realize when I speak to owners that it is like bereavement when their dog dies."
Meeting dogs and hearing their owners' stories has also been "great fun," Porsz added.
"It's also been great exercise for my ambulance man's back!" he said. "And it's a nice way to chill out from my day job."
Porsz has also been able to do book signings at his local hospital and donates part of the proceeds from "Barking" to the charity Breast Cancer UK.
Porsz's wife Lesley has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and he donates part of his profits as a way to "say thank you for the amazing lifesaving work they do," he said.
At the end of the day, Porsz said that if his pictures make people smile, then he has achieved his goal.
He also hopes that people will take away this one lesson from his photographs: "To be kind not only to dogs, but to people too."
See more of Porsz's work and find out more about his book "Barking" on his website.
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