Arts & Culture

When Pups Get Their Close-Ups

Man’s best friend gets a closer look through a South Carolina portrait photographer’s lens

Photo: Vincent J. Musi

Lilly and Bella.

Pet portraiture has become all the rage—but what happens when a National Geographic pro accustomed to photographing tigers and elephants puts away his passport to snap labradoodles instead? The Year of the Dogs, a new book by Vincent J. Musi, answers that question with more than a hundred richly rendered images of spaniels, retrievers, bulldogs, and others, the posing pups infused with nobility (and often humor) with the pop of Musi’s flash. Musi dreamed up the project to stick closer to his Lowcountry home before Hunter, his teenage son with his wife and fellow photographer, Callie Shell, left the nest. 

Photo: Vincent J. Musi


Over the course of 2017 and 2018, the family worked together, Shell acting as “dog whisperer” during the hours-long shoots in Musi’s Unleashed Studio, originally set up in the back of a pet food store, and Hunter helping edit the whimsical captions, first for their three-hundred-thousand-plus fans on Instagram (@vincentjmusi), and then for the book. “For me, it was a chance to make these animals heroic,” Musi says, “and romanticize them in a way I probably couldn’t get away with at National Geographic.” 

Photo: Vincent J. Musi