Saturday, December 22, 2007

Can You Feel The Love?

Puppies Behind Bars: Training Puppies to Change Lives

by Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg
Glitterati Inc., October 2007
144 pages/hardcover/168 photographs/$50.00

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

Puppies Behind Bars: Training Puppies to Change Lives is a seamless collaboration between photographers Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg who document prison inmates training dogs to help those in need. The project hatched when Makos met an extraordinary Labrador, a recent graduate of the Puppies Behind Bars program, riding as if human on a flight to Houston. That was unusual enough to stimulate Makos’ eye and out came the camera instead of a much needed pillow.

What he captured was a golden dog loose in the first class cabin, but it was Chauncy’s intelligent smile radiating in his frames that convinced Makos to chase a bigger picture story. After some queries on board, Makos emailed his shots from the flight to organization founder Gloria Gilbert Stoga, who was thrilled by his enthusiasm. He then contacted Solberg to join him in shooting the dogs, the prisons where they are trained and the fortunate people and organizations around the country who are helped by these special animals.

Makos and Solberg are cohesively diverse as great duos should be and when they team up, their visuals strike an agreeable balance. One of the strongest appeals in Puppies Behind Bars is the rare lack of individual photo credits. Half-way through the book it matters less which one took the picture, but it’s fun trying to guess. Makos excels at extreme graphical close-ups with frames full of dog hair that are crispy and physical. Softly lit sleeping puppies and touching portraits of loyalty between dog and inmate exhibit Solberg’s strong ability to depict natural desire and harmony.

As we hang a new calendar while vowing to adjust a lethargic habit here and a fizzled strategy there, Puppies Behind Bars is an inspirational book for image makers on the hunt for stories that make a difference.

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