“I’ve had other dogs and they’re not as loving as pitbulls,” said photographer Isaac Alvarez, sitting dotingly beside his brother and sister pet canines. His pitbulls, Bella and Drax, were born of the same mother and kept in the same house, a rarity in cities like Los Angeles, where the rent is urban and the nearest farm is two hours north.
“I get frustrated when I’m walking my dogs and all of a sudden people start crossing the street because they see a pitbull,” he says, dejectedly scratching Bella’s skull.
Expressing his frustration at the violent misconceptions people have about pitbulls, he claims that his dogs are so friendly they’d let a burglar in. He shoos them away so we can continue our interview.
“See, they listen… oh, they don’t listen.”
At this point Bella has made her way into Isaac’s big, homey lap.
Isaac is an obsessed dog owner and photographer whose early career mirrors William Wegman’s; they both love dogs, and they both loved photographing certain types of dogs. The difference is Wegman’s famous obsessions were his Weimaraners while both of their work possess commercial appeal.
Isaac Alvarez is a Los Angeles creative who got his start with a furniture photographer just east of Pasadena. Since then, his work has appeared on billboards and luxury magazines; he has photographed gigolos from Showtime’s ‘Gigolos,’ junior master chefs from ‘Master Chef Jr.,’ and even a producer from ‘Pitbulls and Parolees.’ His love of photographing people from the straightforward portrait to more artistic moments has garnered Isaac considerable commercial success, which left him with little time for his passion project.
“I’d been thinking about this project for about six months now. I’ve been busy off and on filming and doing work on the side, and I haven’t had time to just get started. So one day—January 26, to be exact—I said, ‘let me just post it and see what people think.'”
So he took to Facebook. He gave a shoutout to dog owners who might want pictures with their dogs and hoped there would be takers.
Facebook’s response? Within an hour, he received 60 enthusiastic comments. “Yeah. I’m there. I’m game,” was Isaac’s recollection of the internet’s answer.
So in spite of a fast-paced photographer career, he decided the time was right. ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this now while it’s still, you know, alive,’ he thought, and two weeks later began photographing dogs.
In our conversations about the photoshoot, he repeatedly described it as chaotic, saying that out of the 25 dogs ready to shoot, only 20 were together in one room.
“The day just flew by because everybody was just coming in. Next thing you know, I had 20 dogs waiting and I was still on that first dog,” Isaac says, his body bouncing with laughter.
In a room of 20 dogs, no humps were given and few butts were sniffed. Only one angry dog owner stormed out. Overall, the chaos was a tame tornado, which Isaac claims was largely thanks to his assistant—and thanks to the dog owners, there was a lot of love in the room. “They would talk about their dog and how their dog is their life, and how their dog is part of their family,” he said.
Isaac’s series, ‘Reflection of Me,’ opens with a nervous Chihuahua head on top of a timid librarian body, which turned out not to be reflective of reality at all. Isaac described the tiny canine’s owner as outgoing, talkative and well-spoken; in turn, the dog owner described her pet as “not normally this nervous.”
“There was no photo I had where the chihuahua was looking confident,” he said.
A party animal owner came on set that day, too, bouncing off the walls as much as his canine counterpart. “He was all outgoing, all crazy, all jumping around,” Issac said of the brown Husky he photographed and his owner.
Isaac’s idea for the title, “Reflections of me,” didn’t come about until post production, brought to light by the subjects of the series.
This project gave Isaac a chance to put his dog whispering skills to the test. Though Cesar Milan’s hit show offers insight into inter-specie communication, it doesn’t always work, as even National Geographic offers a disclaimer: do not attempt these yourself without consulting a professional. But Isaac tried them anyway.
“I did those. And they worked, for a few seconds,” he said. “But if the dog isn’t trained, they’re not going to listen.”
Isaac has a few other passion projects underway, involving greek goddesses, miniature storm troopers and the dark theme of child sex trafficking. Though a lot of his income comes from commercial and editorial work, Isaac endeavors to stay curious about his passions. “I’m constantly taking pictures of places, family, and things. I’m always full of new ideas and I feel like my brain doesn’t stop thinking of concepts,” he said.
In turn, he has some words of encouragement for passionate young photographers, especially ones who are uneasy about writing a rent check.
“I know that the possibility of being a photographer and making that a career now is more a reality than ever,” he said. “Always keep in mind that it’s not about having the best gear or most expensive gear; creating something out of nothing is what makes you an artist.”