Photographer Dan Balilty hopes to finish putting together his latest exhibit, “Dog’s Best Friend,” by the end of next month. The series consists of portraits of Tel Aviv residents with their pet dogs, among them Balilty and his pooch.
But even before he has finished shooting all of the works, the young news photographer/curator is already fielding great reviews from across the ocean. The New York Times’ photography blog recently hyped Balilty’s upcoming exhibit, including 12 spectacular shots in the post.
“I knew that it was going to be a success,” the 34-year-old Balilty tells ISRAEL21c. “I’ve got a lot of international feedback from people who want to participate in the exhibit. I want to create a book. If it’s a success, maybe I’ll do the series in another country or city.”
“Dog’s Best Friend” features Tel Aviv residents, most of them from Balilty’s neighborhood.
The series was actually a byproduct of a different photography collection Balilty created two years ago. He had initially decided to document on-stage and behind-the-scenes action shots of dancers at a Tel Aviv burlesque show. That exhibition won him a prize in Israel’s 2011 “Local Testimony” photojournalism contest. Looking closer at the works, he noticed many of the pictures included dancers with their pet dogs.
“When you photograph people next to their pet they’re different than when they’re standing alone,” he says. “The person is more comfortable with the camera and with himself when their pet is in the photo.”
The series is not pet photography, he says. Balilty sees this project as a documentation of regular people in day-to-day life. With subjects who happen to have pet dogs.
Balilty had his friends help him find people to photograph. He tells ISRAEL21c that he hopes to have 100 people and pets in the final display. “Someone offered me to do a celebrity version of the exhibit. Right now I’m just looking for people from everyday life,” he says. “I did not choose a certain type of person. I’m looking for every kind of person.”
The Jerusalem-born photographer says that what he loves about this exhibit is that it portrays positive images to the viewers. A news photographer by day – he works for the Associated Press – he says his work usually covers “bad” news. “Dog’s Best Friend,” however, presents a totally different view of Israel.
“I don’t think about this as an Israeli project. But everyone in the project is Israeli. I’m documenting the environment around me,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “Someone said the exhibit doesn’t look like it’s from Israel. They probably have an assumption of what Israelis look like. [My photos show] there’s no such thing as an archetypal Israeli.”