‘Pawfiles’: Every dog’s got personality

Winnie, Monmouth BeachWinnie, Monmouth Beach Lilly is a street urchin at heart. She raids the garbage outside her apartment, chases rodents and pigeons, but has a taste for the high life and filet mignon. Charlie doesn’t need any prompting to sing along with bagpipes or the harmonica, but hates the sound of thunder and cell phones. Johnny Walker is the best when it comes to training his owners to obey.

The truth about dogs is that they’re unique individuals just like their human companions, and Kim Levin understands that.

Levin set out to do more than photograph her canine subjects in her latest pet portraiture book, “Pawfiles: Portraits of Dogs.”

“I interviewed every owner and we went through likes, dislikes. I tried to create a profile of what this dog is really about,” said the Little Silver pet photographer.

“My other books have had a theme. This book actually reminds people of what they love about their dogs – what’s funny, unique and different. It talks about their personalities. I wanted to do something that really captures what the dog is about.”

Jewelsie, FreeholdJewelsie, Freehold Just released by publisher Andrews McNeel, the latest “Bark and Smile Book” is 13th in a series of portrait books Levin has produced since her first, “Why We Love Dogs,” published in 1998.

“My goal is always the same,” she writes in the forward to her latest gift book, “To capture the essence, personality and uniqueness of each dog.”

This time, for the first time, she supplements the photographic portraits with word portraits derived from interacting with the canines and interviewing their owners.

“Pawfiles” is also different in size, Levin’s first large, coffee table book. The handsome 129-page book is a compilation of dogs she previously photographed. Drawing on the wealth of images accumulated over the past eight years, Levin chose never-before-seen portraits that reveal her subjects’ goofy, quirky, gentle and curmudgeonly personalities.

“I picked only photos that I thought really represented who the dog is,” she said. “It is a portrait book that focuses more on the expression.”

Shorty, Little Silver Shorty, Little Silver Lots of local canines are profiled in “Pawfiles,” solo, or in pairs, trios, even troupes, showing the dogs’ social natures. There are even a few unusual couples, like a dog and rabbit pair of best buddies.

Levin culled her inventory of images so “Pawfiles” would include a variety of dogs – purebreds, mixed, mutts and mongrels. Plus, careful editing resulted in photos that reveal the inner nature of her canine subjects.

“I definitely focused on editing my picture collection. I was very particular. I didn’t want all the same kind of dogs,” Levin said. “I wanted a nice representation of breeds, mixes and mutts. Plus, none of these pictures are just a snapshot. I spent time getting to know them.

“It’s the most personal book I’ve done because it is like a vision I had for a number of years. I have been lucky to have photographed a lot of dogs and to be doing what I loved. I always wanted to do a book that would sit on somebody’s coffee table and the pictures would really speak to them.”

Johnnie Walker, Long Branch Johnnie Walker, Long Branch “Pawfiles” is available locally at Barnes & Noble Booksell-ers and Borders book stores, and at www.barkandsmile.com.

Levin will be at a book signing on Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Freehold Barnes & Noble, Route 9 north.

– Gloria Stravelli