*Please note, this post may be a long one! I wanted to finish off my “post a day for the month of April” with the most important photo I have ever taken. I know, those are pretty strong words, but it’s true. This is the one photo that I think about every time I photograph a couple’s wedding, a family, an engagement, editorial assignment, etc…actually, pretty much anytime I pick up my camera. It’s not just the story behind this photo and what it took to capture this moment, but the impact it had on so many people who saw the photo. For example, this single photo inspired writer and cartoonist Berkely Breathed to write his first illustrated novel (which DreamWorks is currently developing into a movie), and also inspired world class painter Laurie Grove to create a beautiful replica of this moment on canvas.
Before I talk more about the novel and painting, I wanted to tell the story behind the photo. At the time I was given the assignment, I was working for The Spectrum & Daily News in Cedar City, Utah and I was in Las Vegas for almost a week covering Miss Utah competing in the Miss America competition. I was literally surrounded by all 50 states when I got the call from The New York Times. They wanted me to head over to the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah to photograph the pitbulls saved from Michael Vick’s compound after he was arrested on dog fighting charges. That’s right, I was going to be thrown in the cage with Michael Vick’s champion pitbulls. So I left that night from Vegas and headed for Kanab, unfortunately their was a blizzard on the way so I had to hurry. When I arrived I realized right then it was going to be a media storm, several news crews had already beaten me there. I knew right off the bat that if I wanted something different from every agency there, I would really have to break away from the crowd around the caged dogs. That’s when I noticed caregiver McKenzie Garcia putting Squeaker on a leash to take him for a walk through the brush…I knew this was my shot. This is when the snow really started to fall hard, and boy did it add some great drama to the photo. As they started their walk, McKenzie leaned down toward Squeaker and gave him a kiss on the head, I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing through the viewfinder of my camera as I snapped this photo…
Just weeks after facing death from being beaten and thrown in the fighting ring, the love this dog showed toward McKenzie was incredible. I had shivers, and it wasn’t from the snow. The story made the front page of The New York Times and a nice spread inside too, and you can still view the slideshow I put together for them HERE. And the full story can be seen HERE.
The feedback I have received from this photo has been amazing. I have been completely overwhelmed with nice emails and comments from people all over the country who have been touched by this photo.
You might know writer and cartoonist Berkeley Breathed from the comic strip he created, Bloom County. It turns out this photo had been quite an inspiration for Berkeley to write “Flawed Dogs.” Here is what he had to say during an interview with CNN about his new novel:
“CNN: What was the inspiration for the story?
Breathed: The book happened because I came across both a picture and a quote at about the same time — a picture of one of Michael Vick’s fight dogs. It was set to be put down, but a shelter in Utah decided to take the dog and a few others at the same time and try to rehabilitate them. This was the first time the dog had ever received any affection in its life. … It’s the most moving picture of a dog I’ve ever seen, having gone through an impossible transition and fallen back to where dogs naturally go, which is just loving people.”
You can view the entire interview HERE.
And here’s one from another interview he did with San Francisco SPCA:
“Q. I’ve read that a photo of one of the dogs rescued from the Michael Vick case was part of the inspiration for Flawed Dogs?
A. This one, from the NY Times. Taped on my computer the whole time I made the book to remind me of the theme.”
You can see that full interview HERE.
And if that wasn’t enough to prove the cliche “a picture speaks a thousand words,” artist Laurie Grove created a beautiful painting of my photo. The painting was recently auctioned off at the in Las Vegas, with all proceeds going to the Best Friends Animal Society. You can view the painting on Laurie’s website HERE.
This photo has fueled my passion for wedding photography, just knowing what impact each and every photo from the wedding day will have on the couple. That emotional element is what I strive to capture in every photo I take.