Animal Souls

Cats and Dogs Pose For Serious Portraits In ‘Animal Soul’ Book Of Photographs

Cats and dogs are people, too. Intrigued by the facial expressions of animals, photographer Robert Bahou is compiling a book of his efforts to capture them.

Cats and dogs, since they live so intimately with us, seem to adopt human characteristics and expressions. Bahou is determined to show these characteristics in his work.

“I am often asked how I capture the personalities of the animals I photograph. I honestly don’t know if that’s what I am doing. I can never say with certainty who an animal is, I don’t think anybody can. What I can do however is capture a photograph that hides nothing, yet leaves everything to the imagination.”

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Happy, the Ironically Named [Image via Robert Bahou]
Bahou is a 22-year-old Jordanian who has spent the past five years living between Amsterdam and London. He says the idea was always in the making.

“Since I was young I have been drawn to the incredible emotion animals are capable of expressing without the use of language. Couple this with the fact that I have also always been acutely aware of the fact that a true photograph is difficult to come by when the subject is aware of the camera pointed at them. Animals don’t have this, so the formula writes itself. I had the technical background and the equipment to embark on the project, and the photos were already crystal clear in my mind’s eye, I just had to go out and make them.”

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Samoyed Group Portrait [Image via Robert Bahou]
Bahou says that a ginger tabby named Scuba was among the first animals to grace his lens.

“He has been the most well-known of all the animals I have photographed. There is something about his dissatisfied yet smirking expression that attracts people.”

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Scuba [Image by Robert Bahou]
According to the Guardian, Bahou has focused on dogs and cats, but he hopes to expand to pandas, cheetahs, and owls. Working with wild animals, however, presents different challenges altogether.

The project officially started February, 2014, but Bahou states that 90 percent of the photos from the “Animal Soul” Series were made between March and April, 2015.

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Toller Mother and Daughters [Image via Robert Bahou]

“Practically speaking, it helps to understand some basic psychological motivations that are almost universal to cats and dogs respectively. Cats, for example, are territorial creatures and will often get stressed if removed from their home environment. I exclusively photograph cats at their homes. Cats will also instinctively look for high places, as the altitude implies safety. I bring a high stool and introduce it to their environment, more often than not they just sit on it and look at whatever it is that piques their interest, which, most of the time, is me and my camera.”

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Davino [Image via Robert Bahou]

“As for dogs, I feel as though I need to bond with them before I photograph them. I want them to be able to respond to me and to not be too excitable and active. The meeting phase takes about fifteen minutes (depending on how active the dog), and when they calm down most will sit down patiently and wait for me to snap away.”

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Susi [Image via Robert Bahou]
Bahou has photographed 600 animals in a studio setting, give or take.

“As I also say in my Kickstarter campaign, animal photographs have come to be served, for the most part at least, in bite-size and share-size portions. The scroll-after-watching medium that we have grown so accustomed to. I want us to look deliberately at these portraits, to pause and to see things we would otherwise not have noticed, when we somewhat absent mindedly gloss over images.”

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Quiomme [Image via Robert Bahou]

“I want to show how incredibly expressive animals can be and how a brief moment between me, my camera, an animal and nothing else can yield so incredibly much. I have not a doubt in my mind that dogs and cats have the capacity for sophisticated thoughts, the complexities of which we often undermine.”

“I am often asked how I capture the personalities of the animals I photograph. I honestly don’t know if that’s what I am doing. I can never say with certainty who an animal is, I don’t think anybody can. What I can do however is capture a photograph that hides nothing, yet leaves everything to the imagination.”

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Mona Lisa Smile [Image by Robert Bahou]
Bahou has decided to publish his book himself, because he wanted to be in control of the creative process.

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Tigra [Image by Robert Bahou]

“I have a very specific idea in my mind about how I want the book to take shape so I opted to do it myself. Kickstarter is also a fantastic medium to bring my work to fresh eyes.”

Bahou said he is raising funds to get the first copies of the book printed and shipped.

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George the Skeptical [Image by Robert Bahou]

“The offset printing can only start with x amount of books. Anything under that amount needs to be print-on-demand which costs huge amounts of money. This is what my estimate has been based on. If anything, all I am really doing with the Kickstarter campaign is setting up a platform for people to pre-order the book, offering me a sort of comfortable guarantee of audience for when the project actually hits the presses.”

Bahou said that the response to his photographs, and the idea of publishing a book, has been overwhelmingly positive.

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Crazy Eyes Camila [Image by Robert Bahou]

“Many people share with me stories about how my photographs inspired them to pursue a similar endeavour. For the most part, what I think resonates with my work is that I am showing something very relatable in a way that has not been done before, despite the absolute simplicity of the project. Animals have and will always be hugely popular, and I am just one of the many entering the world of Animal photography with my own take.”

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Fatian the Barbarian [Image via Robert Bahou]
Those interested in ordering Bahou’s book can go to his Kickstarter page.

[Photo of Brown Sugar the Chihuahua by Robert Bahou. All images used with permission.]

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