Jann Tenenbaum has worked as a photojournalist for over 20 years, shooting in Canada and the United States for such outlets as the Canadian Press, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times.
Although her subjects have included royalty, celebrities, and politicians, in her retirement, she has switched her focus to dogs. Her work will be on display at the Hingham Public Library next month.
With a sharp eye and an unwavering patience, Tenenbaum says she does the work because she loves it, and after years of traveling throughout the world, she has found home in Hingham photographing man’s best friend.
Boston Globe: When did you decide to switch to dog portraits?
Jann Tenenbaum: Well, actually I stopped photojournalism and my husband and I started a business relating to digital access management. I just retired from that and then I loved dogs, and I started taking dog pictures.
But I have to tell you that I always was critical of my pictures, if I did or didn’t do a good job… But when I take a picture of a dog, I love the picture. Isn’t that weird? I have some pictures that I’m proud of in my work, like anybody, but when I take a dog’s picture, I love it! So that’s how I got here. I’m retired and I do this because I love it.
BG: About how many dogs do you photograph in a week?
JT: I probably don’t photograph more than one a week. It’s not a money-making situation, and I don’t do it for money anymore. Because you can get it done at PetSmart or something for nothing, and it's really a lot of work. If you take the dog, it takes you an hour, and really you get the first picture and it’s almost always the best one.
But then you do the imaging, and I give people 50-60 pictures of their dog. I just overdo it. So I work hours and hours and hours.
What I really found was I would go for walks and see dogs and ask if I can photograph them, and that was way more fun…so that’s what I do now. And it’s great. I wish everybody this kind of life…
BG: Why is it important to people to get their dogs photographed?
JT: I don’t know why they come. I think because one, they have to like photographs … I think it’s truly based on liking photography. beause people can take pictures of their animals.
Photography has changed so much. I used film so long ago. As a writer, things have changed for you a lot. It’s the same with photography.
So first of all people have to love photograph, and they have to love their dog and it’s a gift. But I don’t think it’s ever a mistake. That picture becomes more important every month or day they do it. It’s a special thing…
BG: After working so long as a photojournalist, what’s some of the major differences in working with dogs compared to people?
JT: It’s very simple. When you take a picture of a dog, the dog goes, 'I love that picture.' When you take a picture of a person they go, 'I don’t like that picture, I don’t like my look'....I always say to people, get in and get a picture with your dog, and they never like them. It’s a cultural thing. It’s very funny. But dogs love their picture.
BG: What skills did you learn as a photojournalist that have helped you in this current profession?
JT: I would say what the photojournalism brings is the editing - which is crucial. It’s the skill of the right lenses and tenacity. You just work till you know till you have something
But the editing - it all comes down to the editing, and I trust the editing... You have such an eye when you’re a photojournalist. It’s such a process. It’s like when you write, you concentrate a certain way, it’s that kind of training, and that tenacity to get it right, to get a good picture.
It’s also the quality - you fill as much of the frame as you can, you’re sharp…
BG: Have you ever exhibited elsewhere?
JT: No, never. Not at all.
BG: So what made you decided to do this Hingham Library exhibit?
JT: I wish I knew. I’m 62. When you’re 60, it’s freaking awesome. It’s the best years of your life because you can do what you want. ...
I thought I should, and maybe for a bit of business, I just decided I would. So I asked and you can apply, I gave them samples and they said yes!
I don’t even know if it will be worth it. I’m doing it as best I can. And I don’t know. But maybe I’ll know afterwards.
But I think people will really enjoy them. I just have such a love for dogs. They bring joy, and love. They bring love. And that’s what you live with…that’s sort of says it all.
Hingham Public Library’s Clemens Gallery will feature Jann Tenenbaum’s
dog photography from April 28 through May 31. The Clemens Gallery is open for
viewing during library hours.