Angela Schneider, Capturing Emotion through the Camera’s Lens

April 25, 2024
By Anne Marie Duquette
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Anne Marie Duquette interviewed Angela Schneider, the Winner of the 2023 DWAA Writers Contest in these categories:

Graphics – Series Photos, Location Spotlight: An idyllic dog-friendly beach on Lake Roosevelt
View the Winning Entry

Graphics – Posters, Calendars, Brochures of Pamphlets: Paws of the Inland Northwest
View the Winning Entry

Congratulations on your win!  Tell us about your experience and expertise, and how this relates to your entry.  What target audience did you write for, and why?

A camera has been a part of my hand since I was 12 years old.  Among the first photos I ever took were of my rough collie Princess.  As a young sports reporter in Canada, I learned to use cameras to complement my stories.  At community newspapers, you must be multitalented, and be able to write, edit, and be a journalist and photojournalist.  Fast forward to 2024.  For eight years I’ve been creating kickass artwork for my clients.

As a sports reporter, I thought I had the world’s greatest job.  As a dog photographer, I now know I have the world’s greatest job. I get to meet the most amazing people--dog lovers--and I get to see how loving a dog equalizes and unites us. I blog with a subject I’ve been passionate about my entire life, and I present my clients with tangible memories of the bond they have with their dogs.

What prompted you to submit this specific entry?  Why do you think it struck a special chord with the public and the judges—and with you?

Both of my wins are a tribute to my photography skills, but I am so stoked to have won the Series Photos division for the second time. This category is a tribute to the way I’m able to tell a story for my client, not just create one amazing photo.

This particular set of photos is really special to me.  I had long been wanting to book a session at this location, Hawk Creek on Lake Roosevelt, but had never yet been there.  I went into this photo session completely blind, even though I knew there isn’t an inch of Eastern Washington’s nature that isn’t gorgeous.

And of course, I knew it held everything I celebrate with my work: Mother Nature’s majesty of wooded hills, rugged trails and calm, cool water.  My clients were fun, active people so I knew it would be a banger of a session.

We did the usual portrait-y, posey-y stuff.  The photo of Dulcie holding her Doug so gently and lovingly sent my heart soaring.  But I believe it’s when the dogs are allowed to do “dog things” that my work really shines.

Of course, being on Lake Roosevelt also allowed me to pack my underwater camera gear.  I was able to get an incredible variety of the dogs at play.

How big a part have dogs played in your personal and professional life?  Was there a particular dog that sparked your interest in interacting with the public?  Tell us about this special dog, and/or the dogs in your contest entry.

The first dog I can recall being a big part of my life is Princess. Though she was the family dog, she and I had a special attachment. I remember so vividly the first time I experienced real heartbreak. My then boyfriend dumped me, and as I sat on my bed crying--alone because growing up in a house full of men with a busy mother, these experiences were solitary moments--she nudged open my door and put her head softly on my knees, recognizing that I needed her support.

Fast forward some 20 years and I became attached to a Maremma sheepdog named Shep. He transformed me into the person I am today at 52 – someone who has shed the opinions of others, walks more confidently and is more of a presence in this world.

I so much align with the spirit of the Maremma sheepdog.  Shep, who left my world on Aug. 20, 2014, was a stoic boy; a gentle giant who guarded me and my heart. His fierceness was quiet but impressive.  Bella, who entered my life nine days after Shep left it, is my world. Her fierceness is loud and obvious; her eyes flash yellow with defiance and stubbornness.

I am them, and they are me.

When you consider both your personal and professional canine-related achievements, which one of each stands out the most?  And why? What is the driving force that sparks your work?

My work at Big White Dog Photography is a tribute to the big white dogs who have been such a huge part of my journey for the last 20 years. This year I launched an incredibly special personal project that honors the incredible lessons they have taught me.  After being in business for eight years as a professional dog photographer, I have met many women who have shared that learning experience, allowing their dogs to show them the way.

I am taking women into the wild and putting them in gorgeous dresses to pose with their dogs. The project not only celebrates the amazing bond we develop with our dogs as women, but also the fierceness and power they have allowed us to feel with our womanhood.

Their images and stories will be used for a coffee table book. The project is also a fundraiser for the Companions Animal Center in Hayden, Idaho, a shelter that is staffed by some incredibly compassionate, passionate, badass women. If I can get 40 women to register, the project will raise $6,000.

It’s important to me to give back to the community that has helped build my business.   In the past four years, my work has raised $15,000 for other shelters and rescues in my area.  Each of the first two books raised $5,000 for a community shelter, one each in North Idaho and Spokane. This current book, Tails of Adventure Dogs and the Women Who Love Them, will be my third self-published book.

What ongoing or future canine projects do you have planned? 

Oh, I guess I already answered that. LOL. I was always taught not to read ahead. Even though I always do. :=D

What would you recommend to those peers who wish to enter your winning category in next year’s contest? 

With a background in writing, I understand the importance of the written word. As a professional photographer, I also know that ol’ trope, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  I’m different in that I believe words and photos should weave together to tell the complete story.  It’s why you shouldn’t just throw up a pretty picture on Instagram and expect it to say everything.

In entering this particular category, be sure to see your story from start to finish with your photos. It shouldn’t be as simple as putting a few cool photos onto a page. Think through the story you want to tell and use your photos thoughtfully.

To conclude this interview, what thoughts from the heart would you like to share?

Get professional photos done.  If you love your dog that damn much and you choose the right photographer, you will see your relationship through the eyes of someone who has studied and experienced dog and human interaction.  You will see an entirely different version of you and dog together … doing dog things.

Congratulations again and thank you for sharing with us.

Angela and Bella, photo courtesy of Angela Schneider
Photos of Angela & Bella, courtesy of Angela Schneider

Substack: (Among other posts, a weekly feature on ways for professional pet photographers to improve their end of life sessions)