A parody video last year called Cathood teased the idea of Richard Linklater’s real-time aging epic Boyhood, if it were about pets. A new coffee table book called Dog Years: Faithful Friends, Then and Now, though, comes closer to the real thing, with a photographer revisiting the same dogs she’d taken portraits of 12 years before.
Amanda Jones began working as a photographer in 1992, shooting weddings and taking family portraits. On a whim one day, a few years later, she gathered some friends together to take intimate portraits of their dogs. (Jones herself did not have a dog at the time.) Based on loads of positive feedback, she professionally switched to a far more canine-friendly course.
Her idea for the project that came to be known as Dog Years didn’t occur to her until many years later, when her beloved long-haired dachshund Lily passed away. In the act of creating a memorial card for Lily, she began to revisit all the many portraits she’d taken of her over the years.
“She had this funny way about her when she posed for me,” Jones says. “She would always sit the exact same way on the set and just look at me. When I put the images together in a sequence, it was very visually striking and interesting to me. It started me thinking . . . what other dogs could we do this kind of side-by-side comparison with?”
The solution, Jones decided, was to root through her client database to see who still had dogs that she’d worked with over the previous 12 years or so as young pups. The reaction she got from long-ago clients was one of happiness and flattery. Many of the dogs were still in fine, tail-wagging form. Of course, that wasn’t the case with every single phone call.
“The two beautiful boxers in the book, Winston and Lola? I called their owners to inquire about the dogs and tell them about the project and they informed me that Lola had passed away just a couple of days ago and that only Winston was left,” Jones says. “We photographed him solo, which was hard for them and for me, but makes for a very touching pairing of images.”
Time has been more kind to other dogs, however. One 12-year-old Chou Chou Jones hoped to get into the book looked exactly the same as when she’d photographed the dog 11 years prior. So much so that it didn’t seem right to include the image in the book.
Most of the images show how much dogs change over time while still retaining their essential essence. They may lose the bounce in their step of the spark in their eye, but they maintain the same expressiveness and personalities, if a bit more mellow. Oh, and there’s one more difference that comes with age.
“They become much more treat motivated,” Jones says, “if that’s possible.”
Watch a video for Dog Years below, and have a look at more images in the slides above.