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Book Bag: The Black Dogs Project Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

29 September 2015

We have known a few black dogs in our time, most of them named Blue. Anna Sewell's Black Beauty was, alas, about a horse, not a dog. Such is the life of a black dog.

It gets worse. There's this thing called Black Dog Syndrome. Black dogs at shelters do not get adopted. No one knows why.

One theory is that it's very, very hard to get a decent photo of a black dog. And if you can't get a decent photo, you won't make the sale -- or adoption.

Enter Fred Levy, a photographer looking for personal project.

When he heard about Black Dog Syndrome, he decided to make portraits of black dogs in his studio. He put the portraits on a Tumblr blog and the worldwide interest that blog generated has led to The Black Dog Project, a 128-page, beautifully printed book of 50 of Levy's black dog portraits.

These are more than decent photos of black dogs. But all the dogs are already adopted.

Their new owners have written short stories to go along with the portraits. Some of the stories are embarrassingly funny. Day-Z's owners Paula and Patrick admit their pet "was often mistaken for a cat by people who met her." Good thing dogs can't read. (No, they can't.)

Day-Z is a Brussels Griffon. There are also Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Corgis, Pulis, Dachshunds, Scottish Terriers, Keeshound Chow Chows, Pit Bulls, Alpenhütehunds, Goldendoodles, Boxers, Great Danes, Briards and mixes of all sorts.

The portraits are luscious. Not a dog hair to be seen on the dark seamless. Some are closeups, some are full body portraits. You get extra points for divining the lighting setup by studying the reflections of the light modifiers in the dogs' eyes.

Whatever your score, though, these are all nothing less than beautiful photographs of beautiful dogs. A prize, in short.

Levy is donating a portion of his royalties to the Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue Group in San Diego to raise awareness of Black Dog Syndrome. "My hope is that people will take this kind of knowledge about black dogs and keep it in mind when deciding to bring an animal into their lives," he explains.

In that novel about a black horse, there's a moment at the end of Chapter 13 that would not be entirely out of place in this book about black dogs:

"Your master never taught you a truer thing," said John; "there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham -- all a sham, James, and it won't stand when things come to be turned inside out."

Fred Levy, whatever his religion, is kind to man and beast in this book. And it makes you want to wag your tail.

Black Dog Project by Fred Levy, published by Race Point Publishing, 128 pages, $25 (or $15 at

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