Country's working dogs in the lens

merican photographer Andrew Fladeboe with dog Ned, on Jack and Claire Davis' farm in Lowburn. Fladeboe is travelling New Zealand on a Fulbright grant photographing working dogs.
merican photographer Andrew Fladeboe with dog Ned, on Jack and Claire Davis' farm in Lowburn. Fladeboe is travelling New Zealand on a Fulbright grant photographing working dogs.
Man's best friend is in the spotlight, or, more correctly, the camera flash, in this case.

Working dogs across the country will be models for American photographer Andrew Fladeboe this year, as he travels on a Fulbright grant to document man's best friend and working companion.

Fladeboe, who is based at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, started his trip in Lowburn, near Cromwell.

Originally intending to focus on the South Island, he had made contacts in the North Island, and was considering working there also, Fladeboe said.

His interest in photographing working dogs stemmed from their having been used by man for so long, and their status as the ''original'' dogs before much breeding for physical attributes occurred.

''New Zealand made the perfect sense for a place to go because they [working dogs] have been very important in New Zealand history,'' Fladeboe said.

''I think New Zealand has possibly the highest number of working dogs per head of population [of any country in the world]. The US has working dogs but they are not as ingrained in society as much as in New Zealand.''

Another factor was the beauty of New Zealand scenery, which lent itself to ''images of dogs in front of sublime backgrounds''. Fladeboe, who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts from Rhode Island School of Design in the United States, said one of his motivating factors in photographing dogs was his dislike of elitist art.

Jack Davis' working dog, Ned, puts on a show for photographer Andrew Fladeboe in the hills near Lowburn. Photo by Andrew Fladebow.
Jack Davis' working dog, Ned, puts on a show for photographer Andrew Fladeboe in the hills near Lowburn. Photo by Andrew Fladebow.
He wanted to create art which told stories and could be related to by people, but first and foremost it had to be pleasant to look at.

Once his trip comes to an end, he will present his work to a congregation at the Fulbright office, and he hoped he would be able to showcase it in New Zealand afterwards.

''I think I will do a book and then a selection of 20 images for a show,'' he said.

He hoped his work would be made available in New Zealand, but that would depend on which publisher he secured.

Over the coming year, he intends to visit dog trialling events, farms and stations in order to find dogs to photograph. If any farmers, particularly those with high-country stations, had active working dogs, and would be willing to have them photographed for the project, he would like to hear from them, Fladeboe said.

So far he had been staying with Jack and Claire Davis on their farm at Lowburn, experiencing farming in Central Otago.

During his stay he would be updating a blog: Theshepherdsrealm.com'', where he would post his experiences and pictures. He can be contacted on 021-205-3911.

- Leith Huffadine.