Intrigued by the facial expressions of dogs and cats, photographer Robert Bahou is putting together a book of his efforts to capture them.
Bahou is a 22-year-old Jordanian who has spent the past half dozen years living between Amsterdam and London. He says the idea was always in the making.
“Since I was young I have been drawn to the incredible emotion animals are capable of expressing without the use of language. Couple this with the fact that I have also always been acutely aware of the fact that a true photograph is difficult to come by when the subject is aware of the camera pointed at them. Animals don’t have this, so the formula writes itself. I had the technical background and the equipment to embark on the project, and the photos were already crystal clear in my mind’s eye, I just had to go out and make them.”
“He has been the most well-known of all the animals I have photographed. There is something about his dissatisfied yet smirking expression that attracts people.”
According to the Guardian, Bahou has focused on dogs and cats, but he hopes to expand his attention to pandas, cheetahs, and owls. Working with wild animals, however, presents different challenges altogether.
The project officially started February, 2014, but Bahou states that 90 percent of the photos from the “Animal Soul” Series were done between March and April, 2015.
“Practically speaking, it helps to understand some basic psychological motivations that are almost universal to cats and dogs respectively. Cats, for example, are territorial creatures and will often get stressed if removed from their home environment. I exclusively photograph cats at their homes. Cats will also instinctively look for high places, as the altitude implies safety. I bring a high stool and introduce it to their environment, more often than not they just sit on it and look at whatever it is that piques their interest, which, most of the time, is me and my camera.”
“As for dogs, I feel as though I need to bond with them before I photograph them. I want them to be able to respond to me and to not be too excitable and active. The meeting phase takes about fifteen minutes (depending on how active the dog), and when they calm down most will sit down patiently and wait for me to snap away.”
Bahou has photographed 600 animals in a studio setting, give or take a few.
“As I also say in my Kickstarter campaign, animal photographs have come to be served, for the most part at least, in bite-size and share-size portions. The scroll-after-watching medium that we have grown so accustomed to. I want us to look deliberately at these portraits, to pause and to see things we would otherwise not have noticed, when we somewhat absent mindedly gloss over images.”
“I want to show how incredibly expressive animals can be and how a brief moment between me, my camera, an animal and nothing else can yield so incredibly much. I have not a doubt in my mind that dogs and cats have the capacity for sophisticated thoughts, the complexities of which we often undermine.”
“I am often asked how I capture the personalities of the animals I photograph. I honestly don’t know if that’s what I am doing. I can never say with certainty who an animal is, I don’t think anybody can. What I can do however is capture a photograph that hides nothing, yet leaves everything to the imagination.
Bahou has decided to publish his book by himself, because he wanted to be in control of the creative process.
“I have a very specific idea in my mind about how I want the book to take shape so I opted to do it myself. Kickstarter is also a fantastic medium to bring my work to fresh eyes.”
Bahou said he is now raising funds to get the first copies of the book printed and shipped.
“The offset printing can only start with x amount of books. Anything under that amount needs to be print-on-demand which costs huge amounts of money. This is what my estimate has been based on. If anything, all I am really doing with the Kickstarter campaign is setting up a platform for people to pre-order the book, offering me a sort of comfortable guarantee of audience for when the project actually hits the presses.”
Those who are interested in ordering Bahou’s book can go to his kickstarter page:
All photo credits: by Robert Bahou