Man's best friends give their best shots

Back in 2008, independent photographer Siya Singh Akoi gave up her room in Mumbai and started following dog shows across the country, shooting the chaos within them. But Singh, who had been exploring dog shows since 2007, soon realised that she was more interested in studying the participants at a closer level.

“I was also very interested in studio photographs from the past that used a curtain as a background and enabled the viewer to look more closely at the tiny details that this kind of portraiture offered. I wanted to have the subjects feel more aware of themselves as they stood in my studio. This then lent them to express the ownership/relationship they had with their dog. How they deconstructed this idea in their own unique ways is what I began to record,” Akoi says, sharing the details of her exhibition, The Dog Show Project, which was displayed in the city recently.

The show, which comprised of 40 images out of a pool of over 800, showed dogs with their owners posing for her camera against a grey (with a hue of blue) backdrop. So, while in one picture Pradeep Jadhav was seen posing with Jini, a Miniature Pomeranian at the Mumbai Dog Show, another had Amit Bhogate and Lazer, a Caravan Hound.

“Dog portraiture alone would not have been enough to convey the idea I was hoping to communicate. The human standing alongside the dog was a complete story, as it decoded the signs portrayed in the way they stood together. The story of the relationship shared. The body language of both revealed volumes of their personal traits and how this fit into the idea of participating at dog shows,” Akoi tells Metrolife when asked why she decided to photograph the dogs along with their owners.

Sharing details of the photo shoot, Akoi says she used to request the owners to stand in the centre of her studio with their dog – which would cooperate nearly 80 per cent of the times. “Other times, if it didn’t, I would request the owner to let the dog settle down wherever it would prefer and then the owner would adjust his position; and we would begin our shoot. Eye contact was crucial, so I would be making the craziest sounds to alert the dog to my lens,” she adds.

The images at the show were from various dog shows in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Chandigarh. Akoi says that having to make the final section from so many images, she first chose on the basis of what was in perfect focus. “Second was eye contact with my lens, and then came the interesting part which was, which image was revealing a coherent story,” she says.

Elaborating, the Delhi-based photographer says, “I have tried to show the relationship between man/woman and dog, the business that dog shows bring with it, the name of the dog, the breed of dogs people keep, the tendencies of people in this show arena and the inner minds of the show dogs. The story that these participants are telling and whether the stories are in sync or not is an underlying concept when one views these images. How the subjects display themselves in my studio about what they want to say, and what is actually being said is where my quest of discovery is.”

Akoi, who has eight dogs, however has had no formal portraits taken with them. “I am planning to make one image with them and my family soon,” she says.

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