"Man's best friend" is a common phrase about domestic dogs, referring to their long history of close relations, loyalty, and companionship with humans. It’s a genuine thing to see how you are their whole world and they would literally do anything for you. Maybe that’s why dog-sitter/photographer Levi Mandel started taking pictures of his furry buddies to show his appreciation towards them. In his series ‘Dirrty Dogs’ he portrays the woofers in a very realistic, documenting way that it almost feels like you are the one living a dogs’ life!
"I GREW UP SURROUNDED BY DOGS. MY GRANDMOTHER SYD BRED GERMAN SHEPHERDS, WHICH MEANT WE ALWAYS HAD A MINIMUM OF TWO CANINES IN THE HOUSE AT ALL TIMES. OUR PETS WERE NEVER TECHNICALLY “SHOW-QUALITY,” BUT THAT ONLY MADE ME LOVE THEM MORE."
Your photographs seem too real to me. How do you create these images?
Light on film! Dirty Dogs was all made on 35mm Kodak Portra film. Half of the images were candid and half were staged - I'm all about the eye contact with an amazing dog.
Working with dogs must be a big challenge! What’s the biggest challenge you had to encounter in your career as a photographer?
Biggest challenge as a photographer is working for yourself with no insurance or steady income. Freelance life is great, but it's not for everyone. There is no certainty and your career is fluid, which takes a certain kind of person to make it work.
"WHEN I WAS TWENTY-TWO I MOVED TO BROOKLYN. JOBLESS, BROKE AND WITH VERY FEW FRIENDS, I CAME ACROSS A JOB LISTING FOR “DOG-WALKER” ON THE INTERNET. I ENVISIONED THE CLASSIC SCENARIO I HAD SEEN COUNTLESS TIMES IN MOVIES: A DISHEVELED TWENTY-SOMETHING NEW YORKER HOOFS THROUGH CENTRAL PARK WITH A HANDFUL OF LEASHES AND AN OVERSIZED KEYCHAIN. I IMMEDIATELY APPLIED FOR THE POSITION AND AFTER A FEW INTERVIEWS (AND A FEW FABRICATIONS ON MY RESUME) I HAD THE JOB."
If you could reincarnate in a dog, what breed would it be and why?
Definitely, a Brussels Griffin, mostly because I already look like one.
Which photographers inspired you the most?
Ryan McGinley, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Martin Parr
"THE COMPANY I WORKED FOR WAS NOT THE LARGE, PACK-WALKING SERVICE THAT I EXPECTED; IT WAS A HIGH-CLASS DOG-WALKING CLUB FOR THE ELITE. OUR CLIENTS PAID MORE TO HAVE THEIR DOGS WALKED SEPARATELY. SOME OWNERS WANTED ISOLATED WALKS TO TREAT THEIR DOG’S ANXIETY OR INJURIES; MORE OFTEN THEY JUST WANTED TO ENSURE THEIR ANIMAL RECEIVED INDIVIDUALIZED ATTENTION."
What was the first camera that you received?
In high school, I had a 35mm point and shoot that used this weird film called Advantix I think, where you just push the film straight into the bottom instead of having to pull out the lead.
Do you think good gear influences the result of a picture that much or do you think a good photographer can shoot with everything?
A rookie mistake is thinking that having a good camera will make you a good photographer. I often receive emails from people asking me what camera I shot something on was, or what the settings were. The artist makes the photograph, not the gear. So people should spend more time making work than worrying about what equipment to use. That said, having a solid lens and a strong understanding of how to set your camera's exposure makes all the difference.
"ALTHOUGH STILL MOSTLY FRIENDLESS, MY DOGS FILLED THE VOID OF HUMANITY IN MY LIFE. THEY LOOKED FORWARD TO SEEING ME AND I LOOKED FORWARD TO SEEING THEM. THE LARGE DOGS APPRECIATED MY ENTHUSIASM FOR PLAYING ROUGH, AND THE SMALL DOGS DIDN’T MIND WHEN I TOOK A NAP ON THEIR OWNER’S COUCH BETWEEN WALKS. DURING THAT TIME, I WAS PHOTOGRAPHING MY NEW SURROUNDINGS EXCESSIVELY -MOSTLY DOCUMENTING THE SURREAL NATURE OF A NEW, DIRTY, INSANE CITY- SO IT WAS ONLY NATURAL THAT I PHOTOGRAPHED MY DOGS AS WELL. DIRrTY DOGS BRINGS TOGETHER MANY OF THE DOGS I MET THAT SUMMER, AS WELL AS A FEW NEW FRIENDS."
How do you spend your days when you’re not shooting?
I'm pretty much never without a camera, but other interests including cycling, skateboarding, hiking, walking dogs, and exploring abandoned and neglected neighborhoods.