The second-place winner in the Portraits category: A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever photographed by Yulia Titovets of the United Kingdom.
Tue, 11/02/2021 - 7:31pm

Staying in the Picture

The 2021 World Dog Press Association Photography Contest

The past two years have been hard on most human beings around the globe, and those involved in the dog world were no exception. Dog shows were cancelled, and people remained at home under lockdown and isolation. Professional dog photographers who provide photos for magazines, among other things, were hit hard by the pandemic.

The World Dog Press Association organizes an annual photo competition with an award ceremony held at the World Dog Show or a similar major show. Last year, the awards were held completely online. This year the winners will be announced at the World Dog Show in Brno, Czech Republic, on October 2.

Twenty-four WDPA members from around the globe, mainly Europe, but also the United States and South Korea, submitted 82 photos in four categories: Sports and Action, which captures dogs in movement; Portraits, which includes dogs in various poses; Man's Best Friend, the most moving category showing the close relationship between our dogs and ourselves; and Open – anything goes, as long as it contains a dog.

This year's judges were Harri Lehkonen, judge, photographer and president of the Finnish Kennel Club; Erwin Donvil, a professional photographer from Belgium; and David Dalton from France, a famous dog photographer. As usual, we were sponsored by Birdbrook Rosettes, which provided awards for the winners.

The winners are:


Sports and Action


1.         Javier Beltran Diaz, Spain



2.         Elmira Spesivtsev, Russia



3.         Aleksandrs Borodajenko, Latvia



Man's Best Friend


1.         Gyula Kozel, Hungary



2.         Elmira Spesivtsev, Russia



3.         Dora Levstek, Slovenia





1.         Klaudia Karlowicz, Poland



2.         Yulia Titovets, UK



3.         Dora Levstek, Slovenia





1.         Svetlana Polyakova, Russia



2.         Klaudia Karlowicz, Poland



3.         Yulia Titovets, UK


Reflecting on their unexpected hiatus, our winning photographers expressed a mix of frustration and helplessness over their loss of income, as well as gratitude for the opportunity to be shooting again.

Javier Beltran Diaz of Spain was grateful that his family business provided other income aside from photography. He pivoted to taking studio photographs of people, from newborn babies to pregnant women, making promotional posters for stud dogs and litters, and retouching photos of other photographers.

Pandemic aside, another pressure dog photographers feel is the ubiquitousness of cell phones. “I feel that today a good photo is not valued. Many owners and exhibitors go to the fast and economical way of mobile photography, which we already know has no point of comparison with our photograph,” Diaz says. “But it is true that it undermines our work and I feel that very few people value it, and that is worrying.”

Yulia Titovtets, a dog photographer currently living in the UK, with a heart firmly belonging to the Dolomites in Italy,” owns two Tollers who are her biggest inspiration and best models. Among other things, she show dogs, competes in most dog sports, does gundog work in the field, judges conformation and rally, and teaches dog photography for Nikon School.

“This year I did a lot of projects, both commercial and private,” she says. “I covered a lot of agility workshops and seminars, and had great fun learning to use the mirrorless Z6. Money wise, we had good government grants, so I'm not complaining, but it's good to get back to earning the usual amount of money from photography.”

Harry Ha – a member of Samsung Guide Dog school since 2001 and the WDPA’s only South Korean member – notes there were no large dog shows held in his country in past two years. “All indoor exhibitions were prohibited by the government,” he says. “The rate of vaccinated people is increasing more and more, I hope next year will be better than this year.”

Restrictions can vary wildly from country to country: Aleksandrs Borodajenko of Latvia reports that his government had official restrictions on photo services for more than seven months, with individual photos sessions completely forbidden. To work around the new rules, he started doing more products shots and worked with his wife to photograph client dogs without the owners present.

“On the positive side, it was a great opportunity to make photo sessions in mostly empty city streets and other locations that were usually crowded,” he says. “It gave me some time to think and improve myself in professional way.”

The last show that Richard Moss of Wales photographed was Crufts 2020 – the final hurrah before Covid became a global reality. He returned to the dog scene about a month ago to shoot Heelwork to Music. Though the show was small, the sentiment was huge: “It's great being back.”


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