In Real Life: 'Live. Love. Remember.'
Photographer Pauline Zonnevald's Good Old Dog Project seeks to capture images of beloved pets in their later years
Imagine a job in which your client couldnt speak a language you understood, had motivations you couldnt decode and where the objectives of you and the client were often at odds.
Thats the task often facing photographer Pauline Zonnevald, whose canine customers would rather be just about anywhere else than in front of her camera lens. Fortunately, Zonneveld not only understands what dogs want, but she can also capture that emotion in a once-in-a-lifetime photograph.
What you need as an animal photographer, she says, is endless patience, the mindset to go with the flow and the willingness to expect the unexpected.
Zonnevalds work isnt limited to animals, of course. In a typical week, shell photograph several dogs in addition to a human clientele looking for portraits or family sessions. But its her stunning images of her four-legged clients that have brought the most attention.
Several years ago, Zonnevald started the Good Old Dog Project, which aims to capture dogs who have reached or are beyond their breeds average lifespan (or who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness) and provide their owners with memories of their pets as they were in their later years. The project with the motto Live. Love. Remember. has grown to include several hundred dogs.
Zonnevald also works with local animal rescue organizations, including The Pixie Project and Deaf Dogs of Oregon with results that are just as beautiful as the images she creates.
Dogs that have their pictures done by Pauline get immediate responses on Petfinder. Her photos can sometimes triple the number of inquiries we get about each dog, says Gay Wakeland, a founder of Deaf Dogs of Oregon. She is incredibly patient with the dogs she photographs for us. These dogs sometimes have not had much socialization, or they are nervous and fearful. She manages to get wonderful pictures of all of them.
She is also very accommodating with her time and schedule, Wakeland adds. I am amazed at her generosity. She doesnt have to do these pictures, but she does and for no charge to us!
Jessica Berg of The Pixie Project says shes also grateful for Zonnevalds talent and generosity.
Weve been working with Pauline since last summer, Berg says. She organized a month-long series of photo shoots for pets in October 2015, with all proceeds benefiting our rescued animals here at Pixie. It was a great chance for Pixie supporters to meet Pauline and to see her in action.
Ive met very few people who love dogs as much as Pauline, Berg says. Anytime she meets a dog, she immediately greets them and coos at them to tell them how beautiful they are and how much she loves them. Its incredibly endearing.
Recently, we sat down with Zonnevald to talk about her love of photography and her connection to canines. Heres what she had to say:
Q: Your work involves photographing both human and canine subjects. Do you prefer one over the other?
A: I love the mix of animals and humans. When you photograph a lot of dogs, its so much fun. But when you get a person who needs a beautiful head shot or a beautiful portrait and you can produce that for them, its wonderful. Both can be a challenge. But both are magic.
Q: What is the purpose of the Good Old Dog Project?
A: The Good Old Dog Project is dedicated to honoring the lives of senior dogs. My photographs preserve the happiest memories of our four-legged friends in a celebration of the spirit, courage and love that has defined their lives. Its my aim to make the dogs true personality shine in these one-of-a-kind portraits, regardless of his or her particular situation or hardship.
Q: Can you tell me about your first dog, or the inspiration for the project?
A: It all started with Kali, an elderly Australian Shepherd. I spotted her one day while she was taking her morning stroll in the front yard. Her grey muzzle, uncertain steps and gentle demeanor drew my attention.
As a photographer, I immediately recognized the potential for a meaningful portrait as a tribute to her and a beautiful reminder for the owners of their lives together. I made a mental note to photograph her and surprise the neighbors with a portrait, but before I had a chance to do so, Kali died.
Realizing that the clock is always ticking, I set out to find more aging models cockeyed teeth, grizzled smiles, graying beards and all. They may not be young anymore, but to me they are beautiful.
Q: You also work with nonprofits such as The Pixie Project and Deaf Dogs of Oregon. What is that experience like?
A: I have a soft spot for the underdog, so throughout the year I help a variety of nonprofit dog foster agencies. They come to me with dogs that are particularly difficult to place. Its very gratifying work, because it has been proven time and time again that a good photograph makes all the difference. Not long ago, I photographed Rudy for Deaf Dogs of Oregon, and the same day the photos were released, the organization received four requests to adopt him.
Q: How can people see your work?
A: Ill have a booth at the Lake Oswego Farmers Market on Sept. 3, and Im planning to exhibit my work at a fall show in the Portland area. You can also view my work online at paulinephotography.com or goodolddogproject.com.
Q: What would you like your life to be like in five years?
A: My hope is that I take my photography on the road. I want to start this year already. I see myself as a nomad, moving from city to city, spending maybe six months in Madrid, six months in Helsinki, six months in London, that sort of thing. That would be my ideal. Ive always thrived on the road. Only my dog Maggie on my side, nothing else.