Dogs in action

When photography is passion

Today a2passidaTorino meets Claudio Piccoli, a photographer specialized in “Dogs in action“. Known and appreciated internationally, it is the world No. 1 for photographs of dogs in action, Nikon ambassador for Italy, awarded in major international photo competitions such as Oasis, SIPA and IPA Claudio teaches his technique to professional and amateur photographers in all parts of the world, and its workshops are sold out well in advance.

“How and when was the idea of Dogs in Action born?”

“I tried doing something original, unusual, always keeping image quality at the highest level. And this paid off. At the beginning, introducing dogs as subjects in classic photography was a “massacre”. When I started, 6 years ago, dog photography was considered second level, top photographers made weddings, people portraits, model shoots, and then participate in world contests with images of dogs, trying to assert an original mood, a personal style, it was not at all simple. Behind it there was a lot of study, a lot of commitment, a lot of dedicated time, always supported by a great passion, by a desire to grow, to improve.”

“The results came, however, judging from the success of your workshops. What do you think are the reasons for so much interest?”

The market for professional photographers is changing. Those who previously specialized in portraits of children, in weddings, confirmations and communions, today experience a reduction in their business. When they realized that this could be an emerging sector they started photographing dogs. But, despite having a deep knowledge of the technique, they have obtained unsatisfactory results. Because photographing a dog is another planet! So they started studying, looking for workshops and tutorials on the subject. I was lucky enough to start at a time when no one cared about Dogs in action. There were no courses and so I started holding them. I learned English and started going around the world to teach.”

“So, do you prefer teaching to the profession?”

“Yes. I like to share my experience and convey all the technical aspects, and not only, learned over time. My goal is to allow those who attend my workshops, putting what they learn into practice, to offer their customers a “high level” image quality. Having said that, sometimes I can’t resist and photograph my friends’ dogs.”

“How do you manage a shooting of Dogs in action? It mustn’t be simple.”

“The most important part is the research you do first, it is the wealth of experience that you have created over time and that you use to optimize your work. Then, you have to tune in to the dog you want to photograph. You have to create an empathic relationship with him, this is fundamental. I watch him, watch how he walks, if he limps, how he runs, I ask the owner to tell me about his dog, to tell me what he likes to do.”

“So I explain that the dog will have to be released, in a safe space of course, without a collar, leash and, most importantly, without receiving orders. The dog must be free, free to have fun, must release energy and communicate a feeling of positivity. He is motivated with the game, and at this point, even with older dogs, even with lazy ones, photography comes. So I study the location, I always shoot against the light, with the sun high but in the shade. When I have found the right conditions I want to be ready to take the first run, the second run at the most, because then the dog risks getting tired. It is very important not to tire him, because in the fourth race, from the effort, he has his tongue out and this causes him to lose intensity when shooting.”

“Your shots convey very strong energy and dynamism.”

If a shot makes you feel emotions, it is beautiful for me. Besides, I think photography is an art because through the image it manages to arouse sensations in the viewer.”

“What is striking in your shots is the look, the light in the dog’s eyes…”

“The dog has a simpler way to have fun than ours because he lives here and now without thinking about the future, and therefore fully appreciates what he is doing. In addition, it hardly has a facial mimic, or rather, it has expressions that it cannot control and therefore most of the time it is with the eyes and the tail that communicates the sensations it is feeling. Through his eyes you can see the soul. The dog wants to do that certain thing, run, jump, and this is expressed with the eyes. His eyes are on me, drawn to the noise of the camera.

The gaze then depends on the position it takes. The morphology of the muzzle, the expression depend on the dog’s positions. During the race he takes different positions and each of these changes his expression, from suffering to very happy, from bad, fierce, to cheerful, crazy with joy.”

“What is Dogs in action for you?”

“Dogs in action allowed me to develop a creativity that I couldn’t use in my other engineering job. And most importantly, it helped me get to know dogs even more, and taught me to live differently.
When you are behind the camera viewfinder you must learn to live in the moment, just like the dog you are photographing. You have to learn to “enter” in those 3 seconds of the dog race and fully experience them. In this way the 3 seconds expand, become 30 seconds, during which all things make sense, you see them well, you can photograph them. This is the difficulty of a Dogs in action service, but this is the secret of a successful shot. When people find that out, a new world opens up to them, because they learn to read dogs the way people read. And this, which seems like a kind of magic, allows you to enter another dimension. You see animals and you understand them, and that’s really beautiful.”

“Can you tell us about this photograph?”

“That of the girl in the sea and her dog that stands out high? The dark sea represents the difficulties of everyday life, work and family difficulties due to illness. The dog, photographed at the maximum point of releasing energy, with the eyes, with the muscles, with the position expresses energy, strength, vitality. Portrait at that moment the dog becomes a sort of super hero who makes an incredible leap. This shot, for me, wants to be a kind of motivation. He wants to give hope to all those who are in difficulty, who face enormous difficulties in life. With commitment, passion and willpower, obstacles can be overcome.”

Photographic images: Claudio Piccoli

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