It’s a rare treat when an artist is in possession of both a great talent and an even greater heart. Kamil Salah, who sadly passed away in 2005, was clearly one of these uncommon finds. His timeless photos of celebrity dogs display his artistry and sensitivity.
Salah had mastered the art of capturing the understated intelligence and emotional depth of man’s best friend. His lifelong love for dogs and unfulfilled childhood wishes of having a pooch to call his own could have been what inspired Salah to start capturing canines with his camera.
A Virginia boy at heart, Salah moved to New York City after graduating from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was employed at Ralph Lauren, then later worked as a public relations executive, VIP Personal Shopper and Celebrity Dresser at Helmut Lang. Salah eventually found himself in Los Angeles, where it was up to him to make the rich and famous look good in front of the camera.
In his spare time, Salah attended the photo classes that would result in the decision to turn his photographer’s eye on a friend’s dog, which soon led to photographing an assortment of pooches. As a young man steeped in the fashion world, it was simply inevitable that this line of work would result in Salah playing photographer for dogs with famous parents.
Salah’s portfolio of celebrity canine clientele reads like a roll call of both the entertainment and fashion industries’ A-List. Ross Bleckner, Orlando Bloom, Kate Bosworth, Kristin Davis, Rupert Everett, Debbie Harry, Salma Hayek, Marc Jacobs, Kelly Klein, Steven Klein, Heidi Klum, Kyle MacLachlan, François Nars, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts and Sigourney Weaver are all among those who have had their pets photographed by Salah. And many of these animal portraits will be featured in Salah’s upcoming book, Celebrity Pets.
Published by powerHouse Books and due out this summer, Celebrity Pets became a work in progress after Salah photographed Minnie, his friend and fellow artist Ross Bleckner’s aptly named mini dachshund, followed by Marcel, the makeup master François Nars’ French bulldog. And, like any good shutterbug who loves what he’s doing, Salah soon had a full-blown book on his hands.
Celebrity Pets is Salah’s only book. The 92-page collection begins with a foreword by photographer Bruce Weber and features dozens of Salah’s color and black-and-white images that show how well the top dogs live. Whether they’re practicing their doggie paddle, lolling about a lush sofa, soaking up the summer rays, caught mid-air in a game of Frisbee or hanging out in a baby carriage, the dogs in Salah’s photographs illustrate just how good it is to be a Hollywood hound.
All of the author royalties from Celebrity Dogs will be donated to the Delta Society. Established in 1977 in Portland, Oregon, the non-profit Delta Society is the leading international force in promoting the mutual benefits found in pet ownership. The organization researches the positive impact that comes from allowing a companion animal into one’s life. The Delta Society has devoted itself to validating the interconnect relationship shared by pets, their caring owners and their care-giving veterinarians. Visit www.deltasociety.org for more information on Delta Society.
While it is obvious that Salah possessed a great love for animals, an admirer only has to study his photographed subjects to feel the warmth and compassion that helped bring Salah’s images to life. There was one certain pooch whom he adored above all others. When Salah finally had the chance to bring a special dog into his life, he chose to adopt Molly, a miniature dachshund. The two were seemingly inseparable: she was his constant companion when Salah’s work brought him to Los Angeles and France. Molly also happened to be, for obvious reasons, Salah’s favorite dog to photograph.
While the art world lost a talented photographer when Salah passed, the dog world lost one its most adept translators. It takes a great deal of skill to read the subtle expressions of canine emotion and express it in a photograph, but it takes something greater to get a dog to realize that you understand him on an intuitive level. Salah knew how to get the best out of his canine subjects, and the dogs knew that he was the best man for the job.