A Long Island City-based photographer is capturing neighborhood dogs on camera and is looking to eventually create a photo book to showcase their personalities.
Dennis Martinez, who grew up in Ridgewood and became interested in photography after taking a class at Grover Cleveland High School, began documenting dogs on his Instagram account two years ago. He adopted Gambit, a Great Dane and boxer mix, around that time and decided to photograph other dogs he came across on his daily trips to Gantry Plaza State Park.
Though Martinez became interested in photography at an early age, he did not pursue it as a career until recently. Martinez joined the military one year after high school and served for three years. After his service, he worked as a mixed martial arts fighter for 10 years. Adopting Gambit reinvigorated his passion for the art form and he now works as a photographer full-time, though he is still involved in martial arts as an instructor at Chok Sabai Muay Thai gym in midtown Manhattan.
“When I got Gambit, I kinda just picked up my camera again,” Martinez said. “I’ve always been a big animal person, and me and dogs just get along really well, so I just started taking pictures of everyone’s dogs.”
Martinez sells the digital prints of the pups on his website for $3 and also sells portraits of dogs and their owners. His Instagram account, @HoundsAway, is filled with dogs of all sizes and breeds enjoying Gantry Park or posing for photographs in a studio.
Martinez and his wife, who he met at Murray Dog Run in Long Island City while they were both walking their dogs, just adopted a third dog, Tank Girl, on Tuesday. As a dog owner, Martinez said he recognizes that each dog has a distinct personality and he wants to create a photo book to highlight the quirks of each dog he meets.
“I think an interesting thing that non-dog owners don’t realize is that every dog has its own personality. It’s very intriguing,” Martinez said. “So being around them, you start seeing their personalities. It’s easier to know when to take the right picture because of who they are.”
Martinez has received positive reactions from dog owners and began the Instagram account to make it easier for them to access these photos. He has also been commissioned to take pictures of owners and their dogs for Christmas cards. Though Martinez loves taking pet portraits, he is working on two other books before he begins his dog book project.
His first “passion project” includes taking photographs of Long Island City residents who lived in the neighborhood when it was “just a boat dock.”
“I think their stories need to be told because I grew up in Queens and our neighborhoods have changed so dramatically,” Martinez said. “The cultural melting pot that everybody talks about in New York is Queens. And I feel like it’s not being forgotten but the stories haven’t been told yet.”
It has been difficult to find subjects for his second project, Martinez added, which encourages people to dress and present themselves as they view their parents and how they view themselves. Anyone interested in becoming a part of Martinez’ projects or commissioning portraits, dog or human, can visit dennistakespictures.com to contact him.