Interview with Elias Weiss Friedman, Photographer, The Dogist
Interview with Elias Weiss Friedman, Photographer, The Dogist
Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Elias Weiss Friedman, photographer, known as The Dogist. Elias lives in New York City, and a selection of his work is displayed below. Please visit The Dogist to view more of Elias’ work!
KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: I grew up with a darkroom. My dad made portraits of all the kids every year and hung them in series on the walls – I guess my first impressions for portrait aesthetic were made there. I got my first Nikon SLR when I was 12 and it’s been a constant evolution since then – mostly as an avid hobby. I knew pursuing photography as an artist would be challenging. I fell back in love with it when I realized I could use it to connect with people (and their dogs).
KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study photography formally?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: I took classes in high school, was an assistant teacher during a summer program, and took a digital course during college. I had fun with it and did a few events, but it was never my primary focus.
KATHERINE CARVER: How do you describe your style?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: I might describe it as candid. With The Dogist, you only see one image, but there’s a whole interaction and often silly set of images you get with dogs. They come up to the lens, they bark, they hide behind their owners, etc – eventually they settle down and just look right at me. That’s when you hear the shutter flutter. They don’t know they’re having their picture taken per se, but they know I want them to be “good.” I try to capture them in this state. They look posed like something a human might do, but it’s really just them trying to please (and to possibly get the tennis ball I have above my lens).
KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating photographs was absolutely something that you had to do?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: Telling stories about dogs and realizing I could connect with people through their dogs was and is the biggest part of it. Dogs are a huge part of our society, and it seemed nobody knew who they were – ‘Dogs are people too’, I say. I get a lot of messages from people around the world telling me my photographs are the bright point in their day. That’s very fulfilling as an artist.
KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin your photography project, The Dogist?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: A lot of it has to do with Instagram. “Good art” is art that people like. I was always frustrated with the mediums through which people shared photos. I always felt like I was asking people to go out of their way to see my pictures. Everyone’s got Instagram in their pocket now. It’s simple and intimate.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is your goal, vision with your photography project, The Dogist?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: I want The Dogist to grow. I want to photograph dogs around the world doing different things. So much of news is negative or unfortunate; I’m glad I can document something fun and positive. It’s kind of a dream job if I can make it work. The Dogist is a photo-series but also a business since I’m doing it full-time.
KATHERINE CARVER: How have your own dog(s) influenced your work?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: I grew up with dogs around the house – each color of Lab, some poodles, some doodles. They always made great photo subjects. I’m a very goofy guy at heart – I always treated our dogs like people and spoke on their behalf (dog ventriloquism). The Dogist is about the dogs, but it’s also about me taking something as formal and serious as portraiture and applying it to pets.
KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: Being creative means making stuff. I have no idea what I’m going to get when I walk out the door with my camera. People always ask me about what camera I use, what techniques I use, where I find all the dogs, etc. They’re asking the wrong questions. Creating is actually the easy part – the hard part is putting yourself in a position to do it every day.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being a photographer?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: Making a living. Everyone has a camera these days. Lots of people are doing it professionally or are working part-time to support their passion. If you’re going to be a successful photographer, you also have to be an entrepreneur.
On a day to day basis, it’s getting yourself out to new places and not dropping your lenses.
KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: The Dogist has gotten a lot of traction and attention since I started doing it five short months ago – that’s encouraging. I still get excited watching the activity and reading the comments around my photos. I make a difference in many people’s and dog’s lives every day – what’s more inspiring that that!?
KATHERINE CARVER: What kind of patterns, rituals, and routines do you have while making photographs?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: I always approach the owner first, making sure they’re comfortable with me distracting their dog for a few minutes. Any reluctance on the owner’s part and I’m on to the next dog across the street. Once I do get an “okay,” I typically use a squeaky tennis ball to get the dog’s attention if it’s not otherwise interested in me. I have a pretty good bark too if all else fails.
KATHERINE CARVER: What photographers/artists inspire your work?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: Richard Avedon is the first name that comes to mind. He was the guy everyone had to have take their portrait back in the day. His work has its own style and variety but he as a person was a real charmer. I like that combination. I like my work to have that variety of seriousness with tongue-in-cheek playfulness.
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN: Don’t let anything get in your way. People love creativity and there are more channels to make your work known than ever before. No excuses. The difference between an ‘aspiring artist’ and a true artist is action. Talent comes through practice.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view your work?
ELIAS WEISS FRIEDMAN:
The photographs included in this post are courtesy of Elias Weiss Friedman.
You can read additional interviews here.