Chasing Dogs And Success: 5 Things I Learned From A Day With The Dogist
"FRENCHIE IN AN OUTFIT!" Elias Weiss Friedman -- better known to his 1.9 million Instagram followers as The Dogist -- yells from the concrete median that runs through hectic Houston Street.
In one swift motion, he turns and sprints across the intersection ahead of oncoming traffic while deftly adjusting his Nikon. Not one to question a master at work (or ignore a cute animal), I take my life in my hands and follow.
It only takes a few clicks of the camera for me to realize this guy has photographing dogs down to a science.
"In order to properly photograph a dog, you need to be on their level. And I'm 6-foot-3, so to get on their level, I have to get low to the ground," he says, pointing out the knee pads beneath his khakis. "I wear working pants that have a squeaky toy and dog treats and business cards -- dog-slobber resistant -- and a camera that's fast."
Friedman estimates he's photographed about 10,000 dogs in the two years since he was laid off from his corporate job, "saw a story that no one was telling" and decided to tell it himself. Today, he's the man dog owners all over the world want to meet.
When I asked if I could be The Dogist's assistant for a day, I expected a fun, puppy-filled break from the office and some cool photos. A few hours and a dachshund, a German shepherd, a mini Aussie and a fancy Frenchie later, I returned to my day job having learned some unexpected lessons about creating your own success -- and, more importantly, your own happiness.
Let the hard days inspire you to create better ones.
Getting laid off from your job sucks. But instead of wallowing, Friedman took unemployment as an opportunity to reconnect with his creative roots and dedicate himself to something he was more passionate about.
He started with one dog, a boxer in Vienna (the official face of The Dogist to this day), and just kept shooting. Since then, he's created a powerful brand for himself, published a book, "The Dogist: Photographic Encounters With 1,000 Dogs," and traveled the world telling the untold stories of man's best friend.
But his favorite part of it all?
"Making people happy," Friedman says. "A lot of the news and media today is very depressing... dogs are always smile-inducing."
And as I watched him reveal his identity to unsuspecting dog owners on a windy Tuesday afternoon, the smiles were contagious. Sure, scouring downtown Manhattan for perfect pet photos wasn't all laughter and tail-wagging -- it was cold and there were, at times, long distances covered with no dogs in sight.
But as Friedman says, "Right when you think it's hopeless, around the corner comes a puppy."
Stop talking about it and just do it.
"The hardest part of doing anything creative is doing it," Friedman says. "It's not talking about it, it's not starting and stopping, it's one foot in front of the other, putting on the suit -- the knee pads, the camera -- and finding the dogs."
Whatever your metaphorical "dogs" may be, go out there and don't stop until you find them.
Study your craft until you're the best at it.
Once you've set your mind on a goal, dedicate yourself to it completely. "Be patient," Friedman says. "Stick to it; figure out how you can stick out in whatever you're trying to do."
Commit to doing the job right, and definitely don't make excuses.
"Whenever you're in a creative space and you're like, 'Oh, no one really liked my picture,' well, you weren't out long enough getting the better picture," he says. "There are plenty of dog photographers out there, but I haven't seen a single one wearing kneepads."
Don't take yourself too seriously.
To the dog lovers out there, myself included, Friedman has the dream job. But that doesn't mean he doesn't get his hands dirty. Like... really dirty.
He may have millions of followers, but the photographer -- who describes himself the way he describes a labrador, "sophisticated, but goofy" -- is not above getting down on his hands and knees on a gritty New York City sidewalk and making barking sounds to get the best possible shot out of a flighty pomeranian.
"Sometimes you get the funniest pictures when you least expect it," Friedman says, "like a big smile comes out, or an underbite you didn't see before."
Use your success to help others.
"My job is to tell the story of dogs, and dogs put in shelters are an important part of the story," Friedman says.
That's why he created a program called "Give A Dog A Bone," where readers are encouraged to donate a bone ($50-100), which Friedman brings to a shelter to make a dog's day. He then posts a photo of the happy pup to The Dogist blog, citing the donor and shouting out the dog and shelter in hopes of getting it adopted.
In 2014-2015, this program raised $6,000 for the featured shelters and resulted in successful adoptions.
Friedman's next big project, a book "focused on puppies and where they come from," will address everything from shelters and breeders to how puppies are raised and what they look like at different stages of development. "It's a really interesting story -- it's a really cute story, and I'm looking forward to photographing it this year," he says.
"It's a really interesting story -- it's a really cute story, and I'm looking forward to photographing it this year," he says.
Here are some of the photos I took.
Not so bad for a one-day apprentice, right?