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A Conversation With: Sophie Gamand

Photography of a woman's legs, cropped at the knees, with attention on their dog, who looks off to the side.

At The James, we’re fortunate enough to work with a slew of creators from all walks of life. For our Pets Welcome program in partnership with Shinola, we tapped award-winning photographer and animal activist Sophie Gamand to capture rescue dogs from local shelter Animal Haven for all our pet images.

As pet-friendly hotels in NYC and Chicago, we strive to work with partners who share our vision.  Below, take an inside peek into Sophie’s world including her beginnings, inspirations and goals for bettering the world for shelter dogs, one photograph at a time.

How did you get started as a photographer?

I was always artistic but photography became my main activity when I moved to New York. I left everything back in Europe and had to reinvent myself. The camera became a means to meet people and have a conversation over a ‘third element.’

What drew you to wanting to photograph dogs – shelter dogs – in particular?

I started photographing dogs as a way to meet people and discover my new surroundings. Pretty quickly, I saw the plea of shelter dogs in the US and in New York in particular. Millions are abandoned each year and euthanized for lack of space, adopters and resources. It broke my heart. I had a camera, I loved taking photos of dogs and I had some talent for it. I figured what better way to use this skill than to help save lives and improve our society?

Tell us about your latest book – Wet Dog.

Wet Dog is a dream come true. The photo series became very popular online a few years back and caught the interest of several publishers. It’s basically a collection of dogs looking completely miserable during bath time. It’s also a celebration of that strange, unique and challenging bond we have with dogs. The book came out at the end of 2015. It’s quite an achievement and I absolutely love it.

You work with a lot of animal shelters on a pro bono basis. What’s been the most rewarding moment you can remember?

Almost 100% of my work is with shelter dogs that are waiting for adoption. I always dreamed of bringing shelter dogs to the highest grounds of photography and art and celebrating their beauty and resilience. With my Flower Power series, (shelter pit bulls wearing flower crowns) I am changing the perception we have of pit bulls, while helping dogs get adopted. It actually became a movement on social media under the hashtag #PitBullFlowerPower.

So for me, the most rewarding moment is every day, all day long. I get to live my art, while making something worthwhile and meaningful for so many animals in need and the people who fight for them. There’s no better feeling in the world.

Any tips or suggestions for people that want to get involved?

There are about 14,000 shelters and rescues in the US and countless ways to help them. Find your skills, what you love doing and there’s a way to apply them. You can sew beds for animals, take photos, organize fundraisers, repaint their office, walk a dog or even help socialize a cat.

And lastly, just for fun – if you had to pick only one spot that all travelers visiting NYC must check out – what would it be?

The Brooklyn Promenade for sure! You access it by walking down Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights toward the water. You have an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline from there. It’s one of my favorite places (and the place where my husband finally ”officially” asked for my hand, one knee down, while New Year’s fireworks lit the sky above Manhattan).

The view is breathtaking and reminds us how big and small, at the same time, the world is.

Want more? Follow along Sophie’s visual journey on Instagram at @sophiegamand.

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