I moved to Paris in October 2018, after five years on the other side of the globe in Hong Kong. Even though I had spent all of my life moving from place to place, I was surprised at the insecurities and obstacles I faced trying to integrate into Parisian culture.
Not only did things seem to run so differently but I was trying to launch a freelance photography career and I didn’t even speak French, a necessity for daily life in Paris. As a result, my confidence took a hit and instead of diving into my new environment head first, I withdrew and isolated myself, fearful of opening my mouth and not being able to communicate properly or seem like an ignorant English-speaking foreigner. I felt as though a part of me was stunted by the lack of courage to communicate.
And then one day, I met Lola. Lola had black curls, emotive hazel eyes that pierced your soul and bat like ears, always flapping on alert. Lola was a friendly yet selective bundle of love in the form of a dog. Lola spoke French and Lola did not judge. It was love at first sight and from our first meeting, her owner was happy for me to walk her once a week from then on.
Lola opened me up to the streets and greens of Paris and its surrounding areas. Suddenly people began approaching us and as their eyes would move from Lola up to me, a smile decorating their faces, they would swoon with sounds of “Ooo trop mignon!” (Ooo too cute) and “Un petit ours!” (a little bear), usually followed by enquiries about her age or her breed which I’d respond to the best I could. With Lola, I felt like I could face anything, face anyone.
Eventually I began bringing out my Canon AF35M point and shoot, first on my walks with Lola and then on any moment my feet would meet the pavements of Paris. And so began my collection of flashing the city’s dogs. Each a unique heartbeat on four legs, completely in the present, frozen in the spotlight of my flash and imprinted in the eye of my lens.
With every encounter, I’d feel a sense of connection with not just the dogs but with my environment and the people living in it. The power and ability these animals had to break social and cultural barriers, connecting individuals just by being, became increasingly visible. It was as if through them we felt safe to allow ourselves to look at one another and smile.
This is an on-going project that I shall continue as long as it brings joy. In a sense, it stands as an ode to Lola and all these dogs of Paris that have helped bring down barriers as much as it is an ode to connection, to presence and the encounters that bring us a little closer to each other and to ourselves, for every dog must indeed have its day, as every human and each moment must too.