We love celebrating DCP clients’ photographic achievements. Longtime student and client Tracy Allard placed second in the Assistance Dog Category of the 2019 Kennel Club’s Dog Photographer of the Year contest. Tracy recounts her photographic journey and how she captured this winning photograph:
When I was offered an early retirement package, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d been on a very fast career treadmill in the corporate world for quite a long time and I was ready for a break. My exit package gave me two things that I’d never had at the same time before: free time AND money! One of the first things I wanted to do was finally take a proper photography class and so I started searching the Internet for local options. I was pleasantly surprised to find Dallas Center for Photography. I started at the beginning with the DSLR series of classes, then Lightroom. If it involves a camera, I’m interested and I went on to take classes on travel, macro, panorama and tabletop photography, studio lighting, natural light portraiture, dog photography and more. But it was two multi-day, immersive workshops from Sam Abell and Ed Kashi that really changed me as a photographer, both in my personal documentary-style work as well as my client portrait work.
Sam taught me patience, to compose and wait, and the importance of composition – that every photo has a macro and a micro-composition and to pay attention to both! I learned about internal framing and to carefully watch the horizon line. I learned that flawed and interesting is better than perfect. An image needs to give life to a still life and include a setting, expression and gesture.
The strongest lessons I learned from Ed were how to tell a story through images and to ruthlessly self-edit. We photographed for 4 days and had to tell the story of our subject in no more than 20 images. I became fascinated with reportage photography and to this day I’m always looking to challenge myself with succinctly telling a story with thoughtfully captured images when photographing family and local events. “It doesn’t matter what you had to do to get that image, if the story isn’t in the frame, it doesn’t make the cut” is an “Ed-ism” I’ll never forget. That and “Don’t insult the viewer by photographing signs. They shouldn’t have to read text to know what you wanted to convey in the image. It’s your job as the photographer to capture that in the frame.” Tough love for sure, but that week improved my photography twice over.
Fast forward to present day; I decided to enter the Kennel Club Dog Photographer of the Year contest this year. It’s the largest dog photography competition in the world, receiving in excess of 10,000 entries every year. I had client work to submit in other categories (which didn’t place) but needed to photograph specifically for the Assistance Dog category entry. I knew this therapy handler and dog team so asked if I could photograph him at work. That kicked off a few weeks of permissions from the school and parents, but I finally got the go ahead.
I attended three 2-hour reading sessions with multiple children coming and going throughout. The kids entered the room and sat down without any prompting or posing from me. I had to make the most of what was in front of my camera. I tried multiple angles and heights, constantly moving around the room and took almost 400 images over the course of those sessions, but there was one image that popped up on my screen that I knew this would be my submission. It had a clear setting. It had expression and gesture. The composition holds the viewer in the frame and tells a story. There’s both macro and micro internal framing and a harmonious color palette. The Kennel Club awarded it 2nd place, and I traveled to London in October to collect my award.