All images by Cheryl Senter. Used with permission.
Photographer Cheryl Senter is a photojournalist by trade, and when she’s not working she tends to apply her skills to turning the lens on her dogs. Cheryl is a big advocate of adopting rescue dogs, and for a while was conflicted about how to approach this more personal side of her work. At first, her main Instagram account housed her photojournalistic images and those of her pups. Eventually, she realized that she needs to make the split.
Lots of her images are done in black and white because Cheryl believes that when you strip away the color, what you get is the soul. And quite clearly, that is evident in her images.
Phoblographer: Not only are you a photojournalist, but you’re also a rescue dog owner who has partially gained lots of followers off of Instagram for photographs of your dogs. When you go about photographing them, do you tend to see that your documentary/photojournalist instincts come out? Do they function in a different way here?
Cheryl: Yes I have two rescue dogs, Bella a husky mix and Rudy a Chihuahua mix. I adopted both via Petfinder.
@cherylsenter, about six-years old, is the first of my three Instagram accounts that include @seeclicksend and @tea_journals. Initially @cherylsenter was a mix of work and street all LoFi filter, Lol.
During this time I was building a freelance career after losing my 22 year staff photog job and was caregiving for my elderly parents who had Alzheimer’s and Dimentia.
This was a dark time.
I found it therapeutic documenting my dogs, focusing on something positive. I would post them up on my IG account and then quickly take them down. You see it isn’t cool of photojournalists to post animal pictures on IG and I wanted to be taken seriously also I discovered that peers/friends would not follow me because of the dog pictures.
I didn’t want to give up posting dog images so that’s when @seeclicksend was born. I shifted my day job work to that feed.
Of course I shoot journalistic style with my dogs as it is second nature. I’ve given myself a pseudo deadline of at least one image a day, kind of like a photojournalistic daily exercise.
Getting realtime images of my dogs is no easy task. Bella likes to stay at least 50 feet ahead of me when on walks. At home when Bella sees me getting ready to take a picture she will turn her head away. Patience is key in the field of canine photography.
My dogs rarely tolerate being posed. It was a war of the wills this past St. Patrick’s day when in the spirit of the holiday I attempted to take a picture of Bella with a patch of lush green moss on her head #grumpydogphoto, another classic example, the annual Christmas candy cane head topper.
Before I forget to mention it – all of my dog images are taken with my cellphone.
Fast forward. Now when I go to touch base at client newspapers and or see my peers in the field – Everyone – wants to talk about my dogs and how much they love the images on my feed. I have a huge peer following and I just won a first place animal category with one of my images of Bella in the 2015 Boston Press Photographers annual photography contest.
Phoblographer: Tell us about your dogs. What are their personalities like and how do they specifically come out on camera?
Cheryl: Bella is basically an aloof dog that likes to do her own thing. Rudy is laid-back; outgoing but is fearful of having his picture taken (abused rescue)… that’s why the feed is predominantly images of Bella. When out in the woods I follow Bella around, look for patterns, anticipate what she is going to do and try to be there to capture the moment. Sound familiar? It’s exactly what I do on my work assignments.
Phoblographer: What’s your intention with this type of work? It is purely personal or do you feel like you’re also trying to be an ambassador for people going to rescue shelters to adopt dogs vs going to breeders?
Cheryl: I’m a serious animal advocate, adopt don’t shop. Through my vision I try to convey that animals are thinking feeling beings that deserve to be treated with love and respect. Which brings me to my third IG account @tea_journals which is an animal feed fueled by images from visual journalists from all over the world. @tea_journals is a community that shares in the passion of photojournalism and love and compassion for all animals.
Phoblographer: Lots of your images are in black and white and make a strong use of contrast to tell the story. What’s the creative decision behind this? Why black and white?
Cheryl: What can I say, I love black and white images. My motto on @cherylsenter is “Strip Away Color Reveal The Soul” I really believe that black and white forces you to think differently, use areas of the brain that are rarely stimulated in this day and age. I find color at times actually distracts from the image. I throw in color images only because people always comment about Bella’s eyes, I want them to be able to experience ice blue beauty/intensity. I introduced videos so that people can see my dogs in action.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the apps you’re using to edit the images. What’s your favorite?
Cheryl: I do all of my editing with snapseed, period.
Phoblographer: Do you have any specific goals for this account? Where do you want it to be in one year?
Cheryl: I really don’t have a game plan except that I will continue to document my dogs as the whole process is a win win; the dogs and I get a lot of exercise as does my photojournalistic style/eye/timing.
At some point down the road I will donate my photographic services to local shelters paying forward the joy my dogs have given me.