Photographing Alaska’s Dogs

Photographing Alaska’s Dogs

Reporter Nick Bowman of the Ketchikan Daily News will have his first photography showing on March 3 at the Main Street Gallery.

What grabbed his attention enough to make a whole exhibit?


“I love shooting people but dogs are pretty special,” Bowman said. “And there’s just a lot to play with, the texture and the color of the fur, the myriad of color patterns dogs have. Obviously there’s a lot of variation of people too but you really can create some beautiful pictures of dogs.”

Dogs weren’t initially his focus when he first picked up a camera. He took photos for work, and learned through trial and error as he snapped sports, portraits and feature photos. Eventually, he found enjoyment in it, and outside of odd jobs he took, he then turned his lens to his corgi Charlie as his first dog model.

“My dog-trainer friend Danelle Landis and I decided to visit the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s animal shelter to take portraits of dogs that could be used to advertise them to the community,” Bowman said. “The shelter staff are busy people and only had phones or low-quality cameras to use for the dogs, so we worked together to get nicely lighted, positive pictures. We put them on Facebook and ended up getting five or six dogs adopted that way, enough to empty the shelter for a little bit.”

His project grew from there. He pitched his idea of an entire dog gallery to Ketchikan’s Main Street Gallery and got accepted. He had friends whose dogs he knew he wanted to shoot, but he opened the opportunity up to Ketchikan’s dog-related Facebook community. People in person or text sometimes approached him to shoot their dogs.

“I’ve never seen quite the number of dogs as I have in Ketchikan,” Bowman said.

Shoot times could range anywhere between 10 minutes and two hours.

“Some of [the dogs] absolutely refuse to play ball with you,” he said.

He could motivate his own dogs (the other is a mini Australian shepherd named Holly) to cooperate with treats. Some dogs reacted like his, but others were encouraged more by toys or their owner’s presence. Bowman found it useful to get down on the dog’s level to take a shot, but would run into the problem of the dog wanting to come up an investigate him, getting slobber and wet noses all over him and his camera. Some dogs just don’t like a camera pointed at them, he found. But he discovered most problems can be alleviated with spending a little time to get to know the dog before the shoot.

One of the dogs he initially had in mind for the gallery was Booker, the now retired drug-sniffing dog of the Ketchikan Police Department. He will be one of the three anchors of the show, Bowman said. He’s putting up about 71 prints; the 32 bigger ones will be in the main portion of the gallery, and on the back wall strung on clotheslines he plans to hang up 39 smaller prints. Everyone who participated in the show will be featured, he said.

So far, none of the shots have been made public prior to the opening of the exhibit (all photos featured here are unused gallery images and behind the scene shots). Another unused gallery image will run in Bark Magazine, he said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Bowman said about photographing dogs. “It’s kind of a cliché but people are always anxious and self-conscious and worried about what how their hair looks, worried about their posture, worried about if they have a double-chin going on … that’s all stuff we read and we pick up on and it shows through in pictures. With dogs they’re always just so present. When you’re there shooting them they’re not worried about anything … It’s just a joy to flip through all these pictures of dogs who are as happy as can be about being alive, being around their owners and being in Ketchikan.”

Bowman’s exhibit “Family” will be up from March 3-31. His website is

Photographing Alaska’s Dogs
Photographing Alaska’s Dogs

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